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Indus Kohistan



About the Author:                                                                 Dated: August 14, 2k2.


Ø        M.Sc (Hons) with specialization in Rural development, from Institute of development Studies (IDS), NWFP Agricultural University Peshawar Pakistan.

Ø        Master of Arts (M.A) in Political Science, from University of Peshawar, Pakistan.

Ø        Working with the Scholars of Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), Islamabad for the last four years, as research Assistant. During this period, apart from helping the scholars in various research activities, he has carried out a research project on the Culture of Indus Kohistan, independently under the supervision and guidance of the SIL scholars. The output of this project is now passing through its final phase of editing.

Ø        He has also built up a lexical database of Indus Kohistani language, comprising of about 5000 words, having translation into Urdu as well English. It is also in its final stage now a days.

Address:  ®    Village; Jijal, P/O; Ranolia, Tehsil; Pattan, District; Kohistan, NWFP.

 Tel:       ®      92—0987—404079, 404048

E-mail:  ®      talib_jan21cn@yahoo.com

                             BY: TALIB JAN KHAN



Kohistan, the place of mountains, the land of rebels, the state of free people, as was called, “ Yaghistan” during the British rule. It is the name although given to all the hilly areas, as Dir Kohistan and Swat kohistan, in Malakand Agency, N.W.F.P. Literally the word; “Kohistan” means the place of mountains. The Kohistan under focus is generally called as, “Indus Kohistan” or koastan in the local language and Abasindh Kohistan in Pashto and Urdu.

Indus-Kohistan consisting of three sub-divisions (Pattan, Palas, & Dassu), having majestic mountains and relatively smaller size of spell binding plains, is spread over an area of about 7492 square kilometers approximately, in the extreme North of Pakistan. It is why that whoever visits the area is held spell bound by the enthralling beauty of the area.

It borders the Northern Areas in the North, with districts of Battagram, & Mansehra in the South. Districts Shangla, Swat & Buner lies in its west, while it shares its borders with Kaghan valley in the east.

Nature has been very generous to the region in its endowments of towering invincible peaks, gigantic glaciers and majestic streams, not to mention the splendor of its valleys, the meadows and high altitude plateaus.

To complement nature’s largesse in the man-made Karakuram Highway (KKH), an engineering marvel bearing testimony to Pakistan’s eternal friendship with the Peoples Republic of China. Indus river, the biggest river in the country and K.K.H goes side by side through the lap of Kohistan by splitting it into two halves and covers a distance of about 185 kilometers. The people living alongside KKH road speaks Indus Kohistani language (shuthun, mayan`), while Shina is the major language spoken in the other side of the road and Indus river.

Indus Kohistan has an elevation of about 2000—5000 meters. Longitudinally, it lies between 34.55N and 72.45 to 73.55E. It is the last administrative unit of North-West Frontier Province (N.W.F.P), which lies in the extreme North of Pakistan. It comes under the jurisdiction of Hazara Division, N.W.F.P.

Indus Kohistan got the status of a district in 1975, before this, it was partially affiliated with district Mansehra (eastern part) and partially with the state of wali Swat (the ruler of Swat)(the western part). As it has already been mentioned that this part (Kohistan) was called as, “Yaghestan” during the colonial rule. According to Karl Jettmar, “ this land of rebels was conventionally made backward due to the fair of Russian attacks.” Thus with respect to infrastructure facilities, Indus Kohistan was voluntarily pushed into the stream of backwardness, the results of which are still deeply rooted and easily seen in the area.

During the time of Wali’s rule in Swat State, western part of Indus Kohistan remained with Swat State till 1975-76, when it became a district. On the other hand, the eastern part of it was free and called as Yaghestan. The state of Swat was annexed into Pakistan in July 28, 1969. According to the political arrangements the western part of Kohistan including the Shangla par, was a single unit and one provincial assembly seat was allocated to it, as Swat was annexed as a district of the Frontier Province.

The history of Kohistanis is a mystery, because the people have mix opinions about their history in the shape of myths and it would be difficult to find out a written absolute proof of their exact origin. Nobody can tell with surety that from where these people came and when they started to live in these mountains. There are many ideas about it, as some says that the origin of Kohistanis is Saudi Arabia. Some others are of the view that they came from Afghanistan and similarly, still some others are of the view that they have come from central Asia. However, it is understood that these people were non- Muslims when they started to live in this area. The saints and the religious scholars had converted them to Islam from Swat and Buner, who came to Kohistan in the distant past. They might be Buddhist or the Hindus, as it is obvious from their old tradition of visiting the graves of pious persons and saints (Baba), which is strictly prohibited, in Islam. But, most probably the people of the area believe that they were the Hindus. One of such persons is Khan Member Khan from Kayal. His idea about the topic can be quoted as follows;

“Recently about 18 old graves have been discovered in Muslim Abad, Kayal. They were full of 18 jars, one each grave. Three of them were filled with some old type of jewelry while the remaining 15 were filled with ash. Now, here a question arises calling for a response, as no any concept of grave exists in Hindu cultural and social set up. So from where and how these graves came into being. It can be answered as that in old Hindu culture of those living alongside the Jamna and Ganga rivers, the corpses of the dead person were burnt and the ash was thrown into one of these rivers partially and the remaining part of the ash used to be buried in the grave. Similarly, the jewelry of a dead woman used to be buried with the corpse. Thus, these facts reveals that Kohistan has once been the dwelling place for Hindus and the recent discovery of graves is one of the evidences in this connection”.

Out of the total area, only 5% area is available for cultivation and the rest of the total is unavailable for cultivation, out of which, 29% is under forest. The rest of the area is not cultivable. Out of the total cultivated land area, 91.09 % is irrigated and the remaining 8.91 % is non-irrigated. It has a population of about 472570 individuals, out of which 261942 are the male and 210628 are the female having a population density of about 63 individuals per square kilometers. There are about 82 female for 100 male in the total population. (Source: District census of rural settlements, 1998).

With respect to climate it is divided into the following climatic zones;

1.The upper hilly zone with snow

2.The middle part having pleasant summer and severe winter seasons.

3.The lower semi-arid region.

Generally, the climate is cold and dry in winter and dry and hot in summer in Kohistan. The mean maximum temperature in Kohistan is about 44C (112F) in the summer, while in winter it falls considerably near the freezing point in the lower parts while it goes beyond it on the tops of the mountains. The average rainfall is 380 mm in the valley bottoms and 650 at the higher elevations.

Majority of the population, depends upon, agriculture and forest resources. Maize is the major kharif and wheat is the major rabbi crop of the area. Barley, Shaftal and alfalfa are also grown for fodder purposes. In some of the areas, bean and mung are intercroped with maize.

Indus Kohistan is rich in forest resources as 29% of its area is under forest, which is exceeding the required %age (25) of forest for an area. Its forest is famous in Asia with respect to its kind, density and wild life. But, unfortunately, much less attention is being paid towards the protection and conservation of wild life and forest, respectively.

Frankly speaking, the incidence of poverty is more over here as compare to other parts of the Province. The per capita income of the people is Rupees 3717 (1994-95), which is only 32% of the projected national income of Rupees 11648. The government sources have shown a literacy rate for this area as 6%, which looks like an over estimation.

The sky touching mountains of Indus-Kohistan are covered with various kinds of rare forests in greater density. Most rare varieties of various medicinal herbs and shrubs are found in these jungles, especially in the Palas Valley. These Jungles are also full of various kinds of rare species of wild life, which have no match any where in the world.


Created by Muhammad Zaman Sagar
Copyright © 2003 Muhammad Zaman Sagar