By Anum Khan
Gojal, also known as upper hunza, can be best described as the land of captivating valleys, lofty mountains and glaciers with meadows and lush green trees. Spread over an area of 8,500sq.km, it forms the largest tehsil of Gilgit-Baltistan province and gives home to 20,000 people on average.
It mainly comprises of two ethnic groups, namely Burushu and Wakhi, and since both belong to Ismailism, they have been living in harmony. Wakhi culture and way of life, being very distinct and diverse, has its own place and therefore, survived among other ethnic groups. Various religious, cultural and national events are celebrated in an alluring, interesting way and thus, serve as a means of peace and goodwill among people.
The major languages spoken and understood here are Wakhi and Burushaski. Music and cultural dances form a major part of tradition of Gojal. But education and training are still the first priority for most of the residents. Till the 1940s, there wasn’t a single literate person in the village but as awareness spread, importance to education was given and institutions were set up for girls and boys, both.
A big network of Diamond Jubilee Schools has been running since August 1946. The network was established as a result of the request made by a delegation of Ismilis who visited Diamond Jubilee Darbar of Aga Khan III in Bombay. Sir Sultan Mohammed Shah, Aga Khan III, wrote a letter to the Mir of Hunza for allowing educational facilities for the masses.
Government and Aga Khan Education Services, Pakistan later opened many primary and secondary schools throughout the valley and till now, many youngsters have been educated and shaped into better humans. It is mainly due to the efforts of Aga Khan Education Services that the literacy rate in the villages of Gojal is very high (around 90%).
But it was in January that a massive landslide took place in the central Hunza, which cut off the Karakoram Highway (KKH) for more than half kilometers, and within the few following days, water level rose up to 370ft. A large number of houses and other institutions submerged and left innumerable people without any shelter. Various organizations are working for relief and restoration of the sufferers. The local residents have been having a hard time since this catastrophe befell them and efforts are being made for the rehabilitation of the affected people.
Unfortunately, the Hunza-Gojal area is located on the Attabad fault and therefore, creaks are formed as a result of leakages which can later cause minor earthquakes. Water level has been rising and falling with a little change every time, leaving local people bound with fear and panic. But it is the boldness and courage of people of Gojal and upper Hunza that they are standing against the troublesome waves of Attabad Lake, with hopes high and minds determined to bring back the peace of mind at the earliest.Note: This article ıs written by a Karachi based girl studying at Aga Khan Higher Secondary School Karachi. Most of her impressions of Gojal are based on media portrayals and her online research. She is particularly impressed by the educational setup in Gojal, Hunza. The article has been edited for historical facts. Editor