‘Safar hai shart’: Lessons from Hunza for Pakistan

Published: July 27, 2011
Female artisans working on different wooden works in Hunza. PHOTOS: EXPRESS NEWS

Female artisans working on different wooden works in Hunza. PHOTOS: EXPRESS NEWS

Female artisans working on different wooden works in Hunza. PHOTOS: EXPRESS NEWS Female artisans working on different wooden works in Hunza. PHOTOS: EXPRESS NEWS Female artisans working on different wooden works in Hunza. PHOTOS: EXPRESS NEWS

A recent episode of Express TV’s “Safar hai shart” featured women in Hunza working as carpenters and plumbers — to see such well-qualified women working shoulder-to-shoulder with men was awe-inspiring.

The women of Hunza have not only proven their worth in mainstream careers like medical, law, politics and forces but also in careers that are usually associated only with men — plumbing, carpentry, masonry and iron works.

A fort in Hunza is being restored and the interesting aspect of this restoration project is more than sixty percent of skilled workers are females contributing services in woodwork, masonry, electrification and plumbing.  Samina Khayal, a proud woman of Hunza, is the first Pakistani female mountaineer who scaled the previously unclimbed Chashkin Sar (6400 metres high) in Hunza.

We are habituated to read, listen and watch horrible stories about women: a mother forced to parade naked in a village, three women buried alive for choosing husbands, a 17-year-old girl was publicly whipped by the Taliban in Pakistan’s restive Swat, a four-year-old girl raped and strangled in Karachi.

“Pakistan is the worst place for women in the world.”

In such a state of affairs the news about women of Hunza was a fresh air and I suddenly started to believe that I am living in the world and not hell. Salute to the women of Hunza for shattering taboos and defying the patriarchal social system.

The men and women of Hunza together ornamented dazzling beauty of the valley defying inhospitable surroundings and laboured hand-in-hand in every walk of life to make Hunza the most beautiful place on the earth.

As much as Hunza is famous for its ethereal grandeur, its habitants are also well-known for their simplicity, friendliness, straightforwardness and hospitality. A visitor said, “It is a beautiful place not just because of the snow-capped peaks and the apricot blossoms, but because the nature of its dwellers too.”

Gulf News reports, “Hunza [is] an oasis of peace and order in crime-infested [Pakistan].”

Literacy rate of Hunza is more than 90 per cent — far higher than the rest of Pakistan mainly because the people of Hunza have put their resources on educating their children instead of exhausting their earnings on better living. This special hallmark of Hunza is well-portrayed in the travelogue by the two bikers in “Safar hai shart” in the episode about Gulimit and Phaso, Hunza.

What lessons we can learn from the Hunza experience?

The first lesson is empowering women. United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro told the International Women Leaders Global Security Summit in New York that study after study has shown us that when women are fully empowered and engaged all of society benefits and only in this way can we successfully take on the enormous challenges confronting our world. Napoleon said, “Give me good mothers and I will give you a good nation.”

The second lesson is giving priority to education. Education plays a pivotal role for society by refining future generations who will be able to express their individuality and creativity, thus improving society as a whole.

The third lesson is living a simple and straightforward life. Simplicity is the key to free our souls from crimes, chaos, depressions, hypertensions and anxieties of the modern society. We are hankering after the worldly gains no matter what it takes and in this blind pursuit we have lost the precious contentment for the ultimate luxuries. As the saying goes, “Simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness a weakness.”

The author is a Content Writer.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (22)

  • Amjad
    Jul 27, 2011 - 5:35AM

    It’s not just Hunza but there are many other areas of Pakistan where women have distinguished themselves in education and job skills. The more the better. Pakistan Zindabad.


  • A hedgefund parasite
    Jul 27, 2011 - 6:39AM

    Lesson for Pakistan? Last I heard Hunza was in Pakistan!


  • Maryam
    Jul 27, 2011 - 9:42AM

    visited it last month
    the fort is Altit Fort, the oldest standing structure in that area, believed to be 1000 years old.

    but the point is there is an NGO which has employed women to work on the restoration project and is training them, if any such NGO takes the same step anywhere else in Pakistan too , the result will be the same. so actually its salute to the NGO not the women of the area, becasue given an opportunity who wouldn’t want to earn in this time .


  • Zohra S, Khan
    Jul 27, 2011 - 9:49AM

    Only if you one would less cynical and pay attention to the content of this article, things would be simple. That is another lesson. Hunza has achieved its strong economic footing and social bonding soley on the basis of being united for the cause they believe. Never have they relied on gvernment or outside aid, rather once shown the path they work together to give thier physical, mental, economic resources for that cause. Due to thier selfless heart and soul in each project, they are self sufficient in every sphere of life be it independent water filteration to power generation, food production, transport and diversified economic streams. Again this a lesson for the nation as well as for our incapable and inefficient selfish leaders. Besides, leadershipp there is an equal loser as here so its people who matter and they make sure not to elect the same inefficient person twice. thats another difference!


  • T Khan
    Jul 27, 2011 - 9:56AM

    Experiences like these need to be highlighted more in the media to dispel the negative image of Pakistan. In fact, the rest of Pakistan needs to know more about Hunza and the way women in that blessed place take a visible and active part in the society.

    Kudos Hunza! I wish all of Pakistan could be like Hunza!

    T Khan – the Global Nomad


  • Naeem Ahmed Bjawa
    Jul 27, 2011 - 11:22AM

    Waxing lyrically about Hunza,… same could also be said about upper Chitral, upper Ghizar, Yasin and Ishkoman, but not about Gilgit, Nagar, Diamir. Why?

    It has something to do with the fact that they are followeres of Agha Khan and secondly there is very important role played by AKRSP. They can rightly boast about nearly 100% literacy in 2k generation. Compare this with district of Diamir also in GB, where most retrogressive socio cultural environment prevails,


  • Ahmed
    Jul 27, 2011 - 5:45PM

    Agree, power to people, opportunities and an environment to grow..and there ca not be better environment than Hunza :) Positive criticism is healthy but we should be learning from it as well…! if hunza is looked after by a certain group as claimed, why cant this be repeated everywhere in pakistan? please dont start “ye pakistan ke khelaf aik saazish hai ! “



  • sajjad
    Jul 27, 2011 - 10:51PM

    @A hedgefund parasite: it means for the rest of Pakistan!! duhhh


  • sajjad
    Jul 27, 2011 - 10:53PM

    @Naeem Ahmed Bjawa: bro..hold your horses!! why dont you write one rather than complaining about it?? simple!!


  • Dropscene
    Jul 27, 2011 - 11:49PM

    It is a different Pakistan.. wonderfulRecommend

  • si
    Jul 28, 2011 - 4:39AM

    @Zohra S, Khan:


  • Karim U Baig
    Jul 28, 2011 - 12:45PM

    Research reveals that more than 1,100 villages in GB are organized into Village Organizations (VOs) and Women Organizations (WOs) across Gilgit-Baltistan – not only in Hunza – by AKDN organizations especially AKRSP. These organizations are given the right directions for the future i.e. saving and collective investment for the development of all. In this connection women organization have been proven more effective and progressive; various entrepreneurial ventures have been undertaken and their economic and social status in society has changed positively; now women in these villages are considered productive citizens in monetary terms a well. This came as a result of change in thought – real development – development is not about so-called improving standards of life i.e. more income etc. it’s about change in thought, incorporation and respect for innovative and pluralistic ideas. Whichever organization or area has incorporated these factors into their future discourse has succeeded enormously – it’s not about areas where there are followers of Aga Khan. Women of Hunza showing their mettle in carpentry is one such small example of positive thought; incorporation of innovative ideas and respect pluralism. This is a lesson for all communities across Pakistan and other pocket areas within the GB to follow the path leading to sustainable development.


  • Dropscene
    Jul 28, 2011 - 3:20PM

    AKDN is the architecture of development in Hunza. AKDN has worked across Gilgit Baltistan but what I believe is the people of Hunza responded very well to the programs of AKDN and that is why today Hunza is a different Pakistan.


  • Aamir
    Jul 28, 2011 - 3:40PM

    I have also visited Hunza last month. Believe me this place presents a picture of different Pakistan. Pakistan where no one knows about extremism, filthy politics & bitter experiences of life. People are humble, cooperative and hardworking. The best thing which I have seen there, is the school going kids. They were pretty happy on the way to school. Awesome! they don’t demand for money from visitors, they demand Pencils , pens etc May Allah bless Hunza & Pakistan. Ameen


  • ejaz ulhaq booni
    Jul 28, 2011 - 4:08PM

    @ maryam…..wrong perception!!!!! why dont you start an NGO in Bannu,Bajaour,Khyber,Dir,Chilas(gilgit), Bisham and Southern punjab to give the women training on plumbing and carpentry so, they can start their business in the area……but be careful before going to these areas because humanity does not matter in many parts of Pakistan……hahaha……sorry for being sarcastic.

    @ naeem ahmed bajwa……it is all about the attitude of the people…it can not be said about gilgit, diamir, nagar and the rest of pakistan, because they are still busy in differentiating, what is Halal and what is Haram, who is kafir and who is proper Muslim, who should be killed who should not be killed..Common!!! dont waste time in these issues. ALLAH knows well who is right who is wrong.. there are more than 5000 NGOs working in all over Pakistan. even then, why the rest of the Pakistan have not progressed yet, as compare to hunza, chitral, and Ghizer…you should have to think over it……thanks


  • harpreet singh
    Jul 28, 2011 - 4:19PM

    I didnt know such place exists in terrorist infested Pakistan…..why dont rest of Pakistanis follow this example I wonder…


  • iftikhar
    Jul 28, 2011 - 8:38PM

    yes i agree with ejaz booni that there are different ngos working in othr parts of pakistan. the only ngos cant do any thing. there is necessary that how much people of that area are ready to change and commitment of the people. AKDN works in all over the world africa, america, gulf even in GB in different districts eg Ghizer, Gilgit, skardu etc but people of hunza respect what ever oppurtunities given to them and avail them. So no one can change you until you want to b change.


  • javed
    Jul 29, 2011 - 11:41AM

    There is a misconception that development in hunza is due to NGOs. NGOs are not only working in hunza they are working more than hunza in other places. It is the awareness, simplicity, honesty of the people that led development in hunza.NGOs have did a little bit but not too much.


  • Naeem Ahmed Bjawa
    Jul 29, 2011 - 1:37PM

    @sajjad: I think it is well written article, that is not what I am contesting,


  • Goher Shah Ravian
    Jul 31, 2011 - 5:00PM

    The main difference I think is a single word AWARENESS which makes the difference. There needs a lot of time to other parts of Pakistan to aware in progress. The other thing rather experience of mine is, I worked in Hunza as a volunteer and am working in Lahore with an NGO as SAHARA by Ibrar Ul Haq. The difference is simple-the centerilization of NGO in Hunza is common public and in Lahore there is internal organisational politics with in the Org and Narowal Hospital is the secondary to concentrate on. How would it bring change??


  • Ahmad Murad Hunzai
    Aug 3, 2011 - 3:40PM

    We are proud of our daughters who have put their best efforts to make the lives of our generations past and present progressive and developed both intellectually and materially. The women in Hunza are example of a true role models of females in the society who are putting their best efforts shoulder by shoulder to man in all walks of life. We salute our mothers, sisters and daughters of Hunza, Gilgit-Baltistan for their persistent efforts to make the lives of their families beautiful.


  • Sep 16, 2011 - 11:45PM

    its good opportunity working for women GBL


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