By Noor Shamsuddin Shamsy
It was probably during Sumalik 1 era when three peoples – Bud, Bargo and Zuli – with a variety of reasons from different areas settled down in a narrow strip of land about 56 kilometres away towards the north from the Chitral town which later became to be known as Zait. Rules of nomenclature fall flat here and nobody knows the reasons why this red soil land is called Zait.
Zait is located on the left bank of river Mastuj, 18 kilometrs down Booni, the tehsil headquarters of subdivision Mastuj. It is surrounded by high mountains from three sides and the river Mastuj on the fourth. Although scarcity of water has been an impediment to the way of agriculture, wheat, maize, millet, are produced here. Khanis and mulberry are the specialties found in abundance. Apricot is found in huge quantity while other fruits like pomegranates, apples, pears and grapes are also found in small quantity.
People and Society
The village existed long before 800 years and two clans Bargoye and Budakhail are rightly believed as the aboriginal. Today there are 10 clans in Zait making the total households 110 and Budakhail is the largest clan.
By religious sect, Zait is dominated by Sunnis with the ratio of 80pc of the total population. People of both the sects keep unrelenting adherence to their faith. There are two mosques and one Jamat Khana. Children usually go to their religious education centres daily under parental guidance after worldly education. Producing a religious scholar of high stature like Maulana Ubaidullah and barefooted visit of Khumsool, an Ismaili, to Karachi in older days to attend a religious function shows their close propinquity with their religion.
People of Zait are complex in nature and extreme in temper. Historical review of societal incidents shows that harmony, unity, love and care has been at peak during routine days while during even minute clashes they are ready to take up the cudgels on behalf of another in the name of caste and creed.
People have been attached to various political parties since time immemorial. Up to mid-90s, majority of the populace was diehard supporters of Shahzada Mohiuddin. In 1988 elections, Maulana Obaidullah Chitrali for the lone seat of National Assembly but Shahzada Mohiuddin defeated him at his hometown. Needless to say in terms of delivery for the village, the prince remained behind every other politician. It is worth mentioning that Maulana sahib had served as Naib Amir at provincial level and central secretary of JUI (F). Today the JUI (F) and PPP are the most famous political parties in Zait and, of course, the PTI is also getting roots here.
Political services of the dwellers are even older than the establishment of Pakistan. During the struggle for Pakistan, Molvi of Zait was one of the closest friends of Maulana Noor Shahidin of Chomurkoon whose services for Pakistan are known to all and sundry. The Molvi was famous for his mesmerizing speeches. During this time, Mirza Jandullah Khan and later Mirza Muhammad Iqbal were also shrewd political figures who struggled to maintain the status quo.
People of this village have always been loyal to the government of the day. During the dynastic rule of Sir Shujaul Mulk, famous poet Mayoon eloped a girl and the dynast ordered to catch the fugitive, which was acted upon by Shereen Khan of Zait endangering his own life. Mayoon puts his travel up to Zait as:
Chaitrarar gani zaita pat tasu poon ghosi
Ma xan badanar undruyiran poon ghosan poshi
From the very beginning “self help” has been one of the matchless attributes of the dwellers. Zimrat Baba of the village recalls: “We overcome our water shortage by constructing a water channel from 18,000 feet high mountains. The length of the channel was round 2.5 kilometres and no penny was contributed by the government for the construction.” He smilingly added that those who remained absent for even a single day would have to lose their one goat as a fine which would be slaughtered and served to the workers the next day. Although this water channel has become a history now, the passion exists today. “Action Committee Zait” is working on numerous projects today within Zait with the same notion and zeal.
Though educational resources are sparse in Zait, with only two primary schools, one for boys and one for girls, established in 1954 and early 1980s respectively, the history of the people in acquiring education is exemplary.
Before the inception of Pakistan, Abdul Aman, Abdul Ghafor and Molvi Noor Muhammad had travelled to Kanpur (UP, India) to fulfill their thrust for knowledge. It is worth mentioning that Abdul Aman was second to none from this region getting modern education amongst the YOUFT.
Molve Noor Muhammad served as a teacher for long time even before the establishment of Government Primary School Zait. He continued his prophetic services in a room attached to Zait Jamat Khana up to late 1950s. It must be known that GPS Zait became functional on August 1, 1954, and Ustaz Muhammad Filiqoos (Late) of Shogram was the first enrolled student of the school.
For girls education, services of Zubaira aunti can’t be ignored as she made her own home a school and started teaching the young girls. She later on shifted to the new building of the girls school. Nowadays, owing to the influence of those knowledge lovers, literacy rate in Zait is over 70pc and there is no out of school child. Around 90pc of the enrolled complete their secondary education whereas 35 to 40pc get college education and six to 10pc get university level education.
In the year 1984 with the fund provided by district government, Zait link road was constructed. The fund provision became possible with the generous cooperation of Mr. Fida Mohammad alias PRAIM of Charun Oveer. People still owe gratitude to Mr. Fida Mohammad. Later on, when this facility was washed away by floods, another link road was constructed by CADP which was inaugurated on April 29, 1994.
In the year 2013, another project was put up by the people on a self-help basis under the leadership of the Action Committee.
Electricity facility was availed by the village on July 16, 1999 from Reshun Power House. Before this, eight households in the village were facilitating them by generator again by the same notion, self help.
As mentioned earlier that the area lacks water for irrigation purpose so a canal from Reshun has been constructed via dangerous mountains. In 1992 PC 1 report estimated 45 lac PKR yet more than 4 corers have been invested. Thereby hangs a tale. During a visit of Arbab Muhammad Jahangir to Booni in late 1980s people of Zait gathered in Mastuj Road with muddy water in their buckets. This naïve modus operandi was taught by Syed Ahmad, the then MPA, who is second to none in supporting the villagers through thick and thin. While reaching in Booni, speaking to public gathering, the chief minister announced the construction of Reshun-Zait canal.
For drinking purpose, a pipeline is attached to a German model filtration plant constructed in 1988. In the eleventh hour of the construction when corrupt contractor delayed the project, of course, under the thumb of SDO and others in district office level, the villagers complicit to detain SDO and sub-engineer of Public Health Department on their routine visit to the project. The incident was bold enough to baffle the Tehsil Administration and the assistant commissioner paid abrupt visit to Zait. He failed to cool the infuriated population by empty promises. The detained authorities were finally released when AC guaranteed in black and white to solve the issue on priority basis. This illegal step bore fruit and within a week water was running through the pipeline.
The village had a dispensary functional since early 1990. Its new building was constructed in the year 2008 when a piece of land was donated by Shams Qadir alias Miki.
It is also to mention that one of the pious saints of older time Syed Riza is also buried here. Nayi Tarikh-e-Chitral rightly accepted that Syed Raza spread Ismailism in every nook and corner of the region.
Present Day Zait
Unfortunate and stigmatized social incidents in past geared some philanthropist up to map out future Zait which according to them should be full of love, amity, affection and no go area for racial, sectarian and regional clashes. This intention of surmounting difficulties and eradication of corruption at all level gave birth to Action Committee on May 8, 2011. The committee took up the daunting task of ameliorating the socio-political ambiance of the village. The committee has succeeded to a larger extend amid tough challenges. It beg description to highlight all the achievements of this committee yet solving the 2.5km link road issue and constructing it via self-help scheme, another 2km road to Och Lasht, reconciling in dozen of clashes, handling the youth and representing village in various platforms are some of them. Services of the committee have been acknowledged by the Tehsil Administration from time to time. It is noteworthy that Assistant Commissioner Mastuj Mr. Minhas-ud-Din has awarded appreciation certificate to the committee on 23 March 2013 for the herculean task of mitigating local issues.
If the committee succeeds in its mission in the long run, next time any writer to ChitralToday’s DEH BA DEH segment will definitely change the heading: “ZAIT… where love and hatred goes together”, to “Zait… the land of love.”