By Abid Latif Skndhu
It was already the dusk, the silhouette of the city in the mountains was visible with its dim far lights. Air all around was testing the olfactory responses with aroma of freshly baked loafs and the conifers wood burnt in earthen ovens of every house hold, wafting out through small chimneys. It was mile stone 10, Chitral 10 KM where everything suddenly first stopped then moved and started a rhythmic vibration. The aroma all around had taken over and the trance just began. This is the mystical land far away from the insomniac cities.
Northern areas of Pakistan are famous for their maiden beauty. Pakistan is the most well kept secret of the world. In terms of human development, the complete recorded history is divided into three ages. First the agrarian age the industrial age and thirdly the information age. The information age, is entering its climax, which is Data and digital era. Technology aside, the present age is called as the arthropocene, when the human activity is seriously influencing climate and the environment. Homo sapiens are now being replaced with the sapiens, the humanity (homo) part is taken over by the prudence. Soon the sapiens will have their amygdala gland removed and shall start eating own species. All animals like snakes and fishes etc do not enjoy the luxury of this gland in their tiny brains, so they eat their own children at the time of birth. Not caring for climate is like having no amygdala.
Information overload of information age has made humans decisionless and opinionless, the abundance has left them with the only option of consensus choice, where as for being human, one has to have deliberate choices.
Deliberate choices only foster in strong cultures. The Fourth age as per Elvin Toffler is the age of culture. Strong culture will only survive the vagaries of information age. Moore’s law, that digital capacity of every device will double after every two years is already turning human into subservient to their own Palm size tiny purchases. A couple off on honey moon sitting in the back seat of a rover are no more with each other, they are at a small glanceable screen travelling different universe.
Everyone is suffering with an ever increasing intensity of nomo-phobia (no mobile panic). Only culture, its values, ethos, norms and traditions can save the sapien. Chitral with its strong, mismerising culture is one such place where the connectivity with human ethos is the natural default. The Kafiristan and its Kalasha culture is a unique blend of humanity and simplicity. Kalashi people being decedent of the tribes of Alexander are in their truest form of humans of agrarian age. They eat simple food and are in sync with the nature. The monaliza smiles and pair of blue eyes are the most common phenomenon of the three valleys of Bumburate, birir and Rumbur. They practice a form of animism. For them the fairies live in the far mountains and evil is everywhere. The juniper branchs ward off the evils from their homes.
The museum at brun village of Bumburate valley is time travelling experience which encapsulates the soul into one of the oak wood cauldron squeezing like if one is a bunch of red grapes, ripen, full of Juice and ready to be transformed with the little fermentation of strange divinity all around.
The survival of their traditions and norms over centuries actually vindicates the strength of the culture.
The complete lower Chitral is proud of these people for being microcosm of centuries compressed in any Kalasha-Dur (A typical Kalashi house). Say ishpata (the salutation for well being) to anyone and enter the house. Quite a few rest houses in the Kalasha valley starts with the name of Alexander or Alexandria.
Every beauty is like a wound, the gadflies do not spare a chance to take the fill. The Bumburate valley is severely threatened by the climate change. In 2016, a glacier melted somewhere above this valley and the small mountain gorge, turned into gigantic serpent speeding rocks, stones and devastation everywhere. Many houses were damaged, Scouts mess was completely washed away and the valley was never the same again. Just 15 days ago same type of lake outburst happened somewhere above the Daroosh town which is 45 km from Chitral, sweeping away quite a few houses. In upper and lower Chitral, lake burst is now a common phenomenon which if not addressed immediately will result in climate refugees. There are total 7253 known glaciers in northern area and of which 543 are in Chitral. Near Gilgit at Jaglot bala same thing has already happened. The GLOF (glacial lake outburst floods) phenomenon is vividly evident in the shape of Attabad lake. In Just recent years over 3000 lakes have emerged because of the melting of glaciers. More then 20 out of these are near to burst. This is happening as a direct result of massive increase in the carbon consumption. As air absorb more carbon, the glacier absorb more heat and thus the rate of melt down increases. Loosing glaciers is loosing all the rivers of Pakistan.
The northern areas of Pakistan including Chitral has the highest rate of melt down in the world, this is the direct result of over population, climate change and deforestation.
Broghil (18 hours vehicle and pony drive away from Chitral) is a place near wakhan border which still bears a number of unknown wild species of animals, the legend says that there the size of frog is that of a turtle. That place is the natural repository of wild animals at unreachable heights and difficult terrain. Broghil is under threat, climate change is melting the centuries old ice there and 11 beautiful natural lakes in the vicinity of each other might suffer the GLOF Phenomenon.
If God forbid the glaciers are gone with this speed, then by another few years, rivers Indus and its tributaries from all the catchment area will be barely tiny outlets to nowhere. In cities we are already suffering with the “dutch diseases”. This is the time that one should speak the radical truth, create awareness so that people should have the first story, rather than having the second, third, or the fourth one.
Any political dispensation can have three types, the autocratic, the democratic or the believability in decision making. The USA and the west are not merely following democracy, rather they are the custodians of the third one. Pakistan for the first time is experiencing this third type. The journey has just began where the client and the frontier state is about to become a developmental, entrepreneurial and an innovative state.
The state organs have already started aligning themselves to the effect. The shaman (the divine dreamer) of Kalasha people, 1000 years ago told whence they were at Nuristan area of Afghanistan to migrate to a place which is going to be a peace abode for ever with the abundance of food, fodder and frolic. The Kalasha Shaman predicted Pakistan a millennium ago. This prediction is about to be realized again in the shape of new awakening and the realization.
When travelling in the mountains, one is not alone, three things are always besides you, the mountain, the meandering road and the river. All of these actually symbolize hope. Chitral is the world biggest game reserve for markhor. The cragmen of Chitral in the time of britishers were known for their knowledge of otherwise unknown territories.
The Hindu Kush height resort, an upscale hotel in the suburbs of Chitral City and its very astute and agile manager with the name of Quaid-e-Azam, (He proudly tells the story of his father who named him such as a mark of respect to the father of nation) reminds of the old cragman who can climb any rock yet display humility with wearing a shining smile. In northern areas we are left with only one deliberate choice, that is to jump start the green economy, which has two pillars, first the economic advancement and second the forecasted environment impact. In the down country and for southern Pakistan we have no choice but to adopt IE (industrial ecology), a mechanism in which industry, environment interaction is increased up to a level where the industrialization does not affect environment in any adverse way.
The northern area is an ideal ground for green financing (a technique in which financial instruments, like loan to farmers etc are mobilized to preserve natural resources and environment).
Today the strategic competition between states is largely driven by economic means; therefore geo-economics is the geo-strategic use of economic power. Time is ripe for green economy. Tough decisions are to be made. Interdependence as dependence is the key to fight climate change. Every state is linked in the chain. India in the east and China in Northwest are the biggest producers of carbon, Pakistan being the geographical meridian of these two is suffering, although the carbon footprint of Pakistan is negligible as compared to Indo-China.
The policy makers have to think twice that we are not just part of one silk route which emanates from China, We are also very near to the other silk route which emanates from the strategic neighborhood of USA and reaches at central Asia.
Published in Daily Times, September 1st2018.