[Opinion] SHANDY SCHOOL OF THOUGHT: Political and intellectual venture of Hunza and Gilgit-Baltistan

By: Abbas Ali

Globalization has changed dramatically the lives of people almost in every corner of the world. One of the most significant features of globalization is increased level of freedom of movements for ideas, human beings, and objects. The people of Hunza (Kilick to Mayun) are also trying to take and contribute as much as possible in this fast changing trend of globalization. Every year thousands of people migrate from Hunza to the rest of the world to achieve various objectives, among them most prominent being economic and education. Majority of these migrants settle down in various cities of Pakistan while a small portion, which is rapidly increasing in size, settles in Western world. Along with their brothers and sisters in Hunza, diaspora of Hunza in other countries, particularly in the Western world is trying to contribute enthusiastically for the development of the region. The above notion is truer for the Hunzukutz living in UK.

In London, a noticeable number of Huzukutz arrived and started to settle since early 1970s, but it was not a continuous process. A continuous stream of flow has started since late 1990s and many Hunzukutuz came to Europe and UK for the purpose of education and a few for employment purpose. But many of those who came to study preferred to stay in London particularly those who are self-financed because London offers more attractive financial benefits and an excellent environment for growth as compared to the homeland. Given this situation currently there is a cohesive community of more than 80 individuals from Hunza in UK. In the year 2008 alone, eight students from Hunza came to London on scholarships after been successful at international level competitions. It is important to recognize that most of the scholarships have been provided by the various AKDN institutions, for which we are all very grateful.

This flow of people from Hunza to the West is not only a simple movement of people rather its impacts on the society of Hunza could be felt very strongly. It is to be recognized that most of the people who came to UK belong to the highly competitive educated youth of Hunza who by living in UK or returning back to Hunza could influence the trajectories on which the society is moving ahead. Although in general terms it is considered to be brain drain but it is also a ‘brain gain’ for Hunza, because the opportunity to study and work in UK gives access to new ideas and openings which could be replicated in Hunza, according to local context. It has also created new opportunities and financial gains for the people of Hunza which could, in turn, help to strengthen the economy and society at large. Some of these students have access to training in some of the best institutions in the world, in the fields of social scienceses such as cultures, politics, diplomacy, religion, development and economics, while a few are either engineers or Chartered Accountants, they all try to reflect on their own society back in Hunza. Some of the students are highly impressed by Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Marx, Adam Smith, Hegel and Kant, while other keep Voltaire, Foucault, Habermas, Amartya Sen and Muhammad Yunus in high esteem, still some are highly impressed with the Quranic studies, Muslims Philosophers of medieval centuries, such as Al-Farabi, Al-Ghazali and Mulana Rumi and some are influenced by a combination of these and more schools of thoughts.

Among these western educated youth of Hunza there is diversity of opinions and thoughts, there are those who favor socialism, democracy, a paternal dictatorship, and rule by consensus; and those who are staunch supporters of traditions. Among many things which come under discussions are the impacts of globalization, modernity and the role of traditional values in society. Whatever school of thought Hunzukutz living in UK and West belong to, their ultimate goal is the development of Hunza, their motherland. Many of these Hunzukutz are prospective intellectuals of Hunza, so to say the future brain of Hunza, whom we need to take very seriously as in the coming years they will be having their followings as specialists or experts in their respective fields.

We know that some of the intellectuals belong to the older generation have already impacted people in Hunza to name a few Dr. Najeeb ullah Najeeb, Dr. Faqeer Muhammad, Dr. Jan-e-Alam Khaki and Ghulam Abbas all of them Western educated at some points of their lives. Some of them have positive perception in the minds of the majority of Hunzukutz and others may not have, depending where one stands on the foot scale. Thus the growing intellectuals of Hunzukutz could also not be restricted from influencing the society either people want it or not, it is an unavoidable process to continue. Let us see, what are some of the few important areas which are important for the Western educated intellectual youth of Hunza in the contemporary globalized world?

The discussions that happen at 37 Shandy street London, which is an important place for the lot of Hunzukutz (Kilic to Mayoun) who are settled in Europe or are frequent travelers to Europe, particularly to UK., revolve around Hunza (Kilic to Mayoun). These discussions also apply to debates on Gilgit-Baltistan. It is observed, seen and experimented that more or less there is a broader level of consensus, with minor difference, on many issues regarding yesterday, today and tomorrow of Hunza and Gilgit-Baltistan. I have called these thoughts of Hunzukutz affiliated with 37 Shady Street, ‘Shandy School of Thought’.

The main features of these thoughts are fair governance; basic political, Economic and social rights; equal opportunities for all; justice; Individual and Common Progress; and rule of ethical Values as a way forward and indiscriminate implementation of rule of law. The expressions of these main themes are following:

a)         Hunza is a territorial unit from Kilic to Mayoun, with respect for cultural diversities of Wakhi, Brusahshki, Shina and other languages and ethnic groups. Equal opportunities should be given to everybody without any discrimination.

b) Hunza is geographically located in a very important strategic location; it remained an independent state till 1972, it is important to utilize its importance to get the peoples basic rights which have been still denied to them.

c) A strong brotherly partnership particularly with Nagar valley and generally with Gilgit-Baltistan is highly important for the sustainable development for all.

History is always a good school to refer for learning but not to replicate it. Thus it needs to accept historical unequal treatment across the board in the region, it does not happen because of any natural and inherited differences among the various sections of society rather on the basis of the constructed power relationships where might was almost always right. A tiny minority of organized people have exploited the vast majority of Hunzukutz.

It is important to recognize that all Hunzukutz are equal in terms of access to opportunities available such as social, economic, political, cultural or religious. None is to be preferred over others, equal opportunities of freedom to access the opportunities must be provided to anybody.

People should have chances of growth based on their skills, knowledge and education not on the basis of family, clan, ethnic and geographical affiliations. No one whoever he/she is more important than the other except on the basis of his personal characteristics.

Corruption and unequal treatment of its citizens by the state institutions and existing representatives need to be rooted out, for which civil society organization needs to play a stronger role. In this regard the initiative of Hunza Development Forum (HDF) may play a vital role. It is to be taken seriously that the state institutions do not operate fairly always so a strong civil society has to play its role as a watchdog and enforce accountability and transparency.

The representative political institutions need to be strengthened over the administrative setup and foreign impositions of politically unrepresentative powers. In the existing political situation the position of Northern Areas Legislative Assembly (NALA) needs to be strengthened which is in its current situation a toothless tiger.

One of the most important things is to purge any sought of dividing factors of the unity of the Hunzuktuz (Brushu, Wakhi and Shin) by any element either religious pirs or political pundits. The Pirs and Pundits have recently tried to create such an ugly situation with the politics of blame games and conspiracy theories by involving our honorable Jamati institutions to hide their ills and dodge the innocent ones, playing along the ethnic lines, thus it is to be prevented.

Unity is important for common good with individual efforts for progress. It means freedom of choice must be available to everyone with equal access to information to decide regarding one’s life without any discrimination of gender, clan, geographic or ethnic background. Voluntary partnerships need to be encouraged as a source of resource pooling to enhance effectiveness and efficient utilization of resources as well as increased bargaining powers.

Practical pluralism must be promoted at leadership level; it should not become rhetoric to gain power and to be politically right rather it should be the hallmark of all institutions. It means representation of all diverse thoughts groups of regional communities in the power structure, not a hegemonic leadership of those nearer to power circle as is in the existing situation. Leading institutions have to set examples for the masses of its pluralistic characteristics because a contradiction in action and words will dilute the institutional integrity and will disenchant the masses.

Ethical values of honesty, justice, fairness, truth, helping each other, respect for elders, care for weak, and love for children which are cornerstones of traditions of Hunza must be kept upright as guiding principles for the progress of both material and metaphysical lives. These are universally recognized ethical grounds, by living up to them Hunzukutz will gain respect and honor at any time and any place on earth. This will indeed help to achieve human good in terms of material progress as well as metaphysical development in a ‘win, win’ situation with the rest of the world.

One could see the changing perspectives of the intellectual youth and leadership of Hunza over time. The main features are a clear and strong sense of identity affiliated with Hunza and Gilgit-Baltistan. Since independence of Gilgit-Baltistan in November 1, 1947 we can count four generations of Hunzukutz, who experienced and were convinced with various trends in order to direct the society. The contemporary, fourth generation, is different from all of the previous three generations. It is neither Pakistan centered as was the first generation of military trained leadership of first generation, neither have the Pakistani patriotism on false hopes as the leadership of second generation who were trained by Pakistani administration, and completely different from Al-Jamhor, third generation’s communist ideology. The views of independent minded and well educated fourth generation of youth of Hunza is towards the democratic socialism as it exists in much of fast progressing contemporary world.

Looking at the history of intellectual movements in Hunza it could be confidently said that the current intellectual wave of ‘Shandy School of Thought’ would be able to have long lasting impacts. Some of the reasons are legitimate and a clear understanding of the current issues which will appeal to a major spectrum of society. The ‘Shandy School of thought’ is neither anti religion (as was Al-Jamhor) nor it is anti traditions rather it values both traditions and religion as two most important components of social structures of the societies, this approach will gain respect from both traditionists and religious people. ‘Shandy School of thought’, is neither in favor of blind patriotism nor hatred anti-patriotism, it’s simple goal is to gain basic political, social and human rights as universally accepted and recognized birthrights of each person on earth. So it is a rationale and appealing for wider society. Shandy School of Thought is not state’s military centered, attracted by individual military medals with little room for popular political and intellectual freedom and autonomy, thus it has attraction for the existing lot of independent minded educated youth, whose number is multiplying and it provides a huge base of followers. Shandy School of thought does not believe on terrorism for political gains rather it condemns manifestation of terrorism in all its shape either state sponsored or non-state elements both are curses. The ideological parameters of Shandy School of Thought are deeply rooted in knowledge and reason in a global context which have been attained through struggle and a painful process of discerning the reality and theory made possible by globalization.

Thus ‘Shandy School of Thought’, is based on basic human values encompassing political, economic, social, religious and moral goodness. Although its roots rests in the global meta narratives of modernity with universal application but it is a little narrative of the post-modernity in the post-colonial and post-cold war globalized world, in the local context of Hunza and Gilgit-Baltistan. This endeavor of promoting thoughts of humanism enabled by the process of globalization, Hunzukutz would not only gain they will contribute as well towards wellbeing of universal human values. People might not see any physical existence of this endeavor; however this would permeate in the society like soul in the body, invisible but unavoidable for life.

The writer is Alumni of the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations (ISMC), Aga Khan University (International) London, UK. He could be reached at abbashnz@yahoo.com/abbas.alyy@gmail.com

This article was published in PT, October 10, 2008

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One Response to [Opinion] SHANDY SCHOOL OF THOUGHT: Political and intellectual venture of Hunza and Gilgit-Baltistan

  1. safder khan says:

    I went through whole article and I appreciate the whole efforts of Abbas brother towards this article.What I pereived the moral factor is all have to be unite globally. Hunzukutz are there in every part of the world, need to become unite to tackle the gigantic challenges of globalization.

    Safder Khan

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