By Zulfiqar Ali
PESHAWAR: A Kalash man from Chitral on Monday formally became the first member of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly from his fast shrinking religious minority, which claims to be the descendants of Greek invader Alexander the Great.
Wazirzada represents Kalash, the country’s smallest ethno-religious community that lives in the remote mountains of Hindu Kush range. He is now representing different religious minorities of the province in the assembly.
The Kalash people, according to legend, are of the remnants of the Alexander the Great, whose army invaded Hindu Kush region around 2,000 years ago, while another theory describes them indigenous people.
Hailing from Rumbur valley, one of the three valleys, where Kalash community resides, Wazirzada was the second choice of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf on the priority list submitted to the Election Commission of Pakistan.
Ravi Kumar was the party’s first choice on the list, who also became MPA on reserved seats. Lady luck smiled on Wazirzada after the stunning victory of the PTI in the July 25 general election. He joined the PTI in 2009 but continued with his social work.
“The organisation paid me Rs7,000 salary a month when it got funds from donors for community projects,” said Wazirzada, who has seven brothers and four sisters.
The man from Kalash community did his graduation from the University of Peshawar in 2006. He looked distinct during the oath-taking ceremony in the jam-packed hall of the assembly due to his attire. He fixed green and red feathers in his Chitrali Pakol, which feature the party’s colours.
Wazirzada, who did his master’s degree in Political Science, is a social worker associated with a local NGO.
“I have worked with my organisation as a volunteer for several years to serve my community,” he said.
According to the MPA, various NGOs had spent Rs300 million on different community projects, including health and education, in three valleys, where Kalash people live. He gave the last PTI government the credit for establishing high school, primary school for girls and other works for the welfare of community. The previous government worked well in Kalash, he claimed.
The Kalash population is rapidly shrinking due to conversion to Islam. Their estimated population is around 4,000. Different religious schools of thoughts have established seminaries in the Kalash-populated valleys. Another reason for the conversion of Kalash people to Islam is poverty.
Belonging to a tiny minority group, he is now representing major religious minorities in the province, including 200,000 Christians. Usually Sikhs, Hindus and Christians are elected MPAs on minority seats.
“I am representative of all religious minorities in the assembly and will fight for their rights,” he said, claiming that 50 per cent children of Hindus and Christian communities were out of schools due to lack of various facilities.
“My mission is to protect rights of all religious minorities and work for harmony between Muslims and minorities in the province,” he said.
The Kalash community fully celebrated when he was nominated as candidate on the reserved seats.
Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2018