Hunza – From Primitive to Progressive Society!

RB Hunzai

The magnitude of current development in Hunza is genuinely amazing and awe aspiring when today’s Hunza is compared against Hunza back in 1960s and earlier times.

By then Hunza used to be technologically backward, socio-culturally primitive and superstitious, religiously crude and rudimentary, economically subsistence and static, politically feudalistic, illiterate, geographically isolated, and climatically severe and harsh, exclusively agricultural.  In short totally illiterate and primitive and isolated.

But now just four decades later Hunza is blessed to have so many distinctions to be proud of: The highest literacy rate in Pakistan, the most peaceful and progressive community of Pakistan, the most organized and disciplined community of Pakistan, role model for development work  and looked at for replication nationally and internationally by  entities working in community development  .

The question is how Hunza got transformed from a primitive to progressive society within few decades? Despite of  its resources scarcity, unfavorable climatic conditions, isolated and accessible geographic location, minimal or almost total absence of state or government and no investment by market/corporate sector while any other area of Pakistan could not be able to achieve this magnitude of development? Despite of more favorable conditions, investment by government, private sector including corporates, NGOs, and INGOs?

In my opinion the answer is – Credit goes to AKDN (Aga Khan Development Network).It started its activities back in 1960 in Hunza Valley. AKDN transformed Hunza with an approach that is holistic and all-encompassing including not only economic aspect of the society but both attitudinal and behavioral aspect as well.

Through its well organized, designed and tailored programs to meet local needs launched following initiatives. Although the list is not conclusive but these are some of the most important and crucial measures devised that result in current development of Hunza.

Simultaneous, proportionate and sustainable investment in all components of development –education, health, income generation, socio- cultural aspect of Hunza society.

Community mobilization at every level- among women, men, youth both girls and boys for awareness and pursuit of their rights.

Provision of high standard education for both girls and boys not only in easily accessible areas but in far flung areas as well. Education that encouraged conceptual learning and critical thinking not rote learning and cramming.

Considering the voice and opinion of local population in decision making- in process of identifying and solving the issues hence giving them sense of ownership, participation and involvement instead of rather than imposing opinions from outside.

Investment in marketable and locally applicable capacities and skills of local population which lead to income generation and economic improvement of local population.

Inclusion of materially dispossessed and socially segregated and marginalized segments of society in development process.

Efforts for gender equality by educating both men and women. Educating community regarding the socio cultural gender inequalities ignorantly taken as religiously ordained.

Developing solutions for the needs and issues of that are compatible with local climatic and geographic conditions. That led to sustainability and resource effectiveness.

Exploring, and harnessing local resources and opportunities for betterment of population.

Polishing and training human capital in administration, leadership, technical fields etc. for their future roles instead of recruiting locals just as laborers. This strategy led to development of skilled and educated indigenous human resources.

The result is not only economic improvement rather, socio cultural advancement and richness as well and that is the development in true spirit. And the indicators are prioritizing education, noticeable gender equality, societal tolerance, strong and robust civil society, adaptation of technology, discipline , self-help and  volunteerism ,adjustability to urbanization,  respect for cultural and religious diversity(pluralism), healthy debate and criticism, freedom of expression, hygiene consciousness, productive youth etc.

Yes the picture is not all perfect; there are flaws, defects, negatives and side effects. But all positives with zero negative is an ideal situation which is not achievable.

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  1. A well write up directed at the effort the NGO-AKRSP. Yes it would have been least developed if left at the mercy of state machinery or just to the populace. Generally (I) NGOs’ intervention is mostly areas where there is stark socio-economic backwardness, and this area was quite befitting case then. I think education was the first project in 1960 with a hostel in Gilgit inaugurated by Mir Jamal Khan-the then governor designate to speak. Later in 1983 the AKRSP started in most walks of local life like credit creation etcetera. The success of it was then well guessed by one of its pioneer Dr. Abdul Hameed Khan, who also brought about similar result in orange town project in Karachi. He said the singularity of community would be sources of its social and economic success. That I guess is still the spirit embedded with older generation in contrast to new breed of generation who view it just employment source to be at. The negative I think is near to naught or if any that is happening brazenly in the rest of country-trampling of merit in recruitment and rampant favoritism.

    1. Yes, yes indeed, it is a miracle of education. No Mir Jamal Khan and Dr. Abdul Hameed Khan would have been in the picture if it was not for the Diamond Jubilee Schools in the valley created with the Daimond Jubilee Fund of Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III. These schools then sustained and expanded including creating several premier institutions of learning in the valley by the present Aga Khan. His Highness’ visit to the valley in 1960 ushered a new era in the lives of the people of Hunza and in the subsequent years turned this valley of poverty-stricken population into a land of ever increasing opportunities. The achievements of the AKDN and the achievements of those who are and have been associated with it are but expressions of the concerns and care that His Highness has for the people of Hunza as he has for the people of other areas of the world who are in similar situations. The people of Hunza should be grateful to His Highness the Aga Khan and appreciate those who have been part of the development process.

  2. You have commented Well Mir baz sab ! The first boys Primary school was opened for public in Nagar in 1905 ,while in Hunza it was opened seven years later in 1912. These( BPS Karim abad Hunza & BPS Nagar Khas) were only two schools for Hunza, Nagar. In 1946 Twenty three schools were established through Diamon Jubilee fund. That is why Hunza led in Education at GB level and our ancestors contributed a lot in schools in form of collective free labouring for building schools and teaching as well. We should not call them illiterate, of course we can say they were uneducated but their thirst towards education shift the paradigm towards primitive to progressive one. Of course AKRSP has contributed a lot in social development after 1984.DJ schools have done tremendous job with little resources at that difficult time. We appreciate all those individuals and organizations who contributed in Education as well as social development.

  3. Sociologist point out two things that determine progress in a society 1- Psychology of people and 2- culture. If AKDN was sole reason then why has it not been able to replicate the same results in other parts of the GB ? Even in places with same religious background as Hunza. I think the milieu was provided by the culture and psyche of people and AKDN strategies clicked. For centuries Hunza had a stable culture, and people psychologically for most part believed in working together to solve problems. The rulers did not represent peoples temperament and once they were out of the day, nothing was going to stop the people from progressing.

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