Historical, ethnic, and cultural connections between the peoples of Pakistan and the Pamiris in Tajikistan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Chitral is geographically the largest but one of the most remote and mountainous districts in the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. The district is scattered over a total area of 14,850 square kilometres, and is 320 kilometres long. It is separated from the Gorno-Badakhshan region of Tajikistan by the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan. The population of Chital according to the 2017 census is 447362 people. The people of Chitral are called “Khow” and belong to the ‘Aryan’ ancestry. Most of them have originally come at different times from Afghanistan, Tajikistan and other parts of Central Asia and China (Malik and Hunzai, 2005). Therefore they, especially those settled in upper parts of the district, have more in common with the people of Central Asia than with the rest of Pakistan, in terms of their origins, cultures, traditions, languages, land scape and socio-economic conditions. For example, “Navroz”—celebrating arrival of spring— is one the festivals which is celebrated in most parts of Chitral in the same manner and with the same zeal and fervour and as it is done in Tajikistan.
Geographically, Chitral provides the shortest route to Afghanistan, Central Asia and China. It is connected with the two Pamiri regions (i.e., Gorno-Badakhshan in Tajikistan and the Wakhan District of Afghanistan) through the Broghil Pass, situated at an altitude of 3,804 meters. Similarly, the Afghan districts of Zebak and Ishkashim are connected to Chitral through a number of passes in Arkari and Gobor valleys of Chitral. Historically, there have been political and trade relations and other affiliations amongst these regions as Chitral was an important trade route linking China with the Western Asia. Also, the traders of Badakhshan and Wakhan would come to Chitral through the Broghil Pass to sell horses, horse saddles, carpets, salt and Badakhshani utensils (Shafiq, n.d.). Hence, there are historical, geographical, cultural, and religious ties amongst the Pamiris in Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Chitral.
This chapter provides a brief background of the district of Chitral, highlighting its historic and strategic importance in relation to Central Asia, particularly Tajikistan. It discusses the significant number of Chitrali people whose ancestors actually came from the Pamir regions in Tajikistan and Afghanistan and other parts of Central Asia due to a variety of reasons including “wars, natural calamities, heavy taxation, slavery, and oppression by the local rulers” as well as the anti-religion policies of the former USSR resulted in forced migrations (Shafiq, n.d, p.1). The chapter presents the historical ties and the ethnic, cultural and religious commonalties and affiliations between the people of Chitral and the Pamiris and Tajiks in Tajikistan. It also discusses possible ways through which these ties can be further strengthened.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTajiks: History, Culture, Religion and People
EditorsD. Dagive
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022


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