[Pamir Yatra] The Kirghiz nomads of Pamir

By Zulfiqar Ali Khan

The nomadic Kirghiz herdsmen live in the Pamir Mountains in today’s Tajikistan, Afghanistan and China. The total population of the ethnic group in Pamirs and in Turkic-speaking Central Asian Republics is calculated as about three million. The Kirghiz is one of the more prominent cases where border delineation has interrupted the century-old migration patterns. Traditionally, the Kirghiz herding groups have migrated seasonally in search of suitable pastures across the Pamir region in Tajikistan, Afghanistan, China and Pakistan. According to oral accounts, the Kirghiz nomads were using Klik and Mintika areas in Upper-Hunza as winter pastures till 18thcentury. The stricter frontiers have however ended their migration and many of them have now adopted the sedentary way of life under political pressures.

Historically, the yurt-dwelling Kirghiz herdsman remained victims of the Russian and Chinese Empires.  The nomadic ways of life and adaptation to harsh climatic conditions have however helped them to survive in the Pamir.  The recent external exodus from Afghan little Pamir were witnessed in 1978, in which more than 1200 Kirghiz fled to Gilgit-Pakistan under the leadership of Rahman Kul Khan. These Kirghiz were in fear of Russian persecution after the Sur Revolution in Afghanistan. The people crossed Wakhjir Pass and spent about five difficult years in Gilgit.  The Turkish Government settled these people in Eastern Anatolia in 1982, in a village named Ulu Pamir.

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