G-B police uniform gets traditional makeover

Published: January 11, 2017
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A traffic sergeant in Gilgit-Baltistan sports the Shanti-Khoi on Tuesday. PHOTO: EXPRESS

A traffic sergeant in Gilgit-Baltistan sports the Shanti-Khoi on Tuesday. PHOTO: EXPRESS

GILGIT: With one eye on the rising number of tourists flocking to the area and the other on preserving a fast disappearing tradition, the Gilgit-Baltistan police on Tuesday formally inducted a traditional piece of headgear into their uniform.

The cap, locally known as “Khoi”, will be donned by the traffic police in the region.

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The addition to the uniform was formally made by Inspector General of G-B Police Zafar Iqbal Awan, who put the caps on the heads of traffic officials in Gilgit on Tuesday.

“This new arrangement has been made to give the police a friendly look,” said Mubarak Jan, the official spokesman of G-B police.

“It will serve two objectives,” Jan told The Express Tribune. “It will help promote culture as well help promote tourism for which the region is famous.”

He added that the region was fast becoming a tourist-destination, especially in the summer, and wearing traditional clothing would help give them a softer image among foreign and domestic tourists.

The decision stems from the G-B government’s move to preserve and promote local culture. Last year, the G-B government had stipulated September 1 as ‘cap day’ with all government employees in G-B required to don the traditional caps. Eventually, the day was celebrated on October 1, though the government now plans to hold the event annually on September 1.

Khoi is still an integral part of G-B’s formal dress in this mountain-locked region and is worn by many as a symbol of pride. The soft, round and flat-topped cap is usually white in colour and is made from the finest wool. They are usually decorated with either a tuft of feathers or a flower – shanti. Together, the cap and the feather are called Shanti-Khoi.

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However, for the police, the cap has been slightly modified with an emblem of the G-B police added to the spot where the feather is inserted into the cap.

“It will certainly be different look when one finds a policeman wearing a local cap,” said Kamran Khan, a resident.

Manzar Shigri, a local journalist, was apprehensive about the feathers being used. Referring to the age-old practice when Shanti would be made from feathers of birds, he said that the government must ensure that artificial feathers are used.

This is not the first time the cap has become part of a uniform. Previously, Major William Brown’s pre-partition Gilgit Scouts used the cap as part of their uniform. Today, the modern version of the scouts – the Northern Light Infantry Regiment (NLI) – includes the cap in their uniform.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2017.

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