Kohistan District, Pakistan

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Kohistan District
Coordinates: 35°15′N 73°30′E / 35.250°N 73.500°E / 35.250; 73.500Coordinates: 35°15′N 73°30′E / 35.250°N 73.500°E / 35.250; 73.500
Country Pakistan
Province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Established October 1976
Headquarters Dassu
 • Deputy Commissioner Zafar-ul-Islam Khattak[1]
 • Zila Naib Nazim Malik Qadam Khan
 • Total 7,492 km2 (2,893 sq mi)
Population (1998)
 • Total 472,570 (1,998)
 • Density 63/km2 (160/sq mi)
Time zone PST (UTC+5)
Languages Kohistani, Shina, Urdu, Pashto
Ethnicity Dardic Kohistanis, Pashtuns

Kohistan (کوہستان, meaning "land of mountains"; Pashto: اباسين کوهستان‎), also called Abasin Kohistan or Indus Kohistan, is an administrative district within Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, Hazara division covering an area of 7,492 square kilometres (2,893 sq mi); it had a population of 472,570 at the 1998 Census. Geographically, Kohistan stretches from the border with Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan in the east and north to Swat and Shangla in the west, and Mansehra and Battagram District in the south.

In 2014, the government bifurcated Kohistan district into Upper Kohistan and Lower Kohistan, carving out one more administrative unit after which the total number of districts in the province has gone up to 26.[2]

Kohistan has a rich local history as a crossroads between Central, South and Southwestern Asia. Predominantly inhabited by Dardic tribes since ancient times, Kohistan has been invaded and contested by Pashtuns, Persians,[citation needed] Greeks, Scythians,[citation needed] Kushans, Turks, Mughals and British. It has been the scene of recent sectarian killings of Shia Muslims.


Turk Shahi[edit]

Turks ruled the area since 1399, when Amir Taimur, left his battalion of thousands of Karlugh Turks in this region. Similarly the area of Alai and kohistan about Koli-Palus were under the Gabari (singularly pronounced Gabaro, plural: Gabarey or Gabari [depending on local language]) Khangi of Nogaram. That rule continued util 1703, when Swatis attacked the area and Thakot Fort was occupied after a several months of strong resistance by Shamsher Khan Turks. After the fall of Thakot Fortress, no resistance was offered by Pakhli Sarkar, the Karlugh Turks ruler of the then Hazara and the whole region from Battagram to Mansehra was occupied by the Swatis.

Ethnicity and tribes[edit]

Tribes that live in Shaikhdara, Kohistan

On the Swat side the tribes are divided into two groups, Manzar and Money. They were two brothers and sons of Nafria. Tribes of Kandia, Dubair, and Ranolia belong to Manzar group. Those of Bankad, Jijal, Pattan, Kayal and Seo belong to Money group. The main tribes on Dubair side are Mulakhel, Soyakhel, Saadat, Gotharkhel, Shahbaazkhel, Shadumkhel, Tirrima, Paalaskhel (also known as Kakakhel (tribe) and Shaikhdarwal(Peeran). Further Shaikhdarwal tribe is divided into five casts: Shareef zaadgan, Sadeeq zaadgan,Muhammad mir zaadgan, Ghaus Mir zaadgan, Dabruwal.Paalaskhel are further divided into Ali Muhammad khel and Shekh Muhammad khel. The Shaikhdarawal and Paalaskhel live together in locality named as Shaikhdara. The main tribes on the other side are Mulakhel, Koka Manke Khel and Darram Khel. They are of cognate origin and do not convey clear territorial division. The main tribe in koli are the Gabarey, they are divided into 5 sub categories. One of them are the Novakhel , then there are the salaamkhel, Kalia maglia etc.


The main food of the people of Kohistan is maize, vegetables, milk, cheese, ghee, etc. grown in the valley


The majority of the people are engaged in agriculture while a number of people do business. Most of the people depend upon their share in forest and mines. The rate of education is very low; however the tendency towards jobs as government functionaries is increasing.

Culture, customs and traditions[edit]

Generally the men wear beards. Due to appalling poverty and religious attitudes, the standard of health is poor. Poverty is visible. 10-15% of men marry two and in some cases three or four women. The people are religious, molvis are their only natural leaders and spokesmen.

Historical places[edit]

Supat Valley is situated on eastern side of Jalkot (a composite of many smaller valleys), Tehsil Dassu District Kohistan. It is a majestic and naturally beautiful spot. It is the largest plain at high altitude in District Kohistan. It has beautiful hiking and trekking spots. The two major valleys of Jalkot, Supat Valley and Gabar Valley found in the Hamalian Mountain Series which are parallel to Kaghan Valley, their boundaries touches with Babu Ser Top and Naran. The distance of the Supat Valley is approximately 100 km from Dassu, Jalkot is a gateway for Supat Valley, but another shortest rout is from Soach Naran which is nearly 14 km from Naran. It remains covered with snow from September to April. The valley consists of vast plains and that is why horse race competitions amongst the people are held there every year during summer season. Supat is only in the Joint ownership of the people of Jalkot Valley. The people of Jalkot migrating with their cattle and families during the summer season to Supat.It consists reservoirs of Gemstone Peridot at large level. It is also famous for different colorful flowers in spring. Supat Valley is still unexplored by the authorities and tourists.

Seo Mosque is in village of Seo, 10 km from district headquarters Dassu toward the north and it is 250 years old. It is made of long wooden pillars and strong beams, decorated by carvings of pictures and flowers. It is the main heritage of the entire district. Like Seo Mosque there were so many mosques in District kohistan i.e. Pattan, Jalkot and Karang mosques. Pattan and Jalkot were demolished and built cemented while Karang Mosque is still in his original position. Seo is the historical place consisting of 4 union councils having deep hand in politician. The land is very fertile and given so many educated people to the society.This small piece of land has given Doctors,Engineers,Agriculturist and Educationist to the society and also producing so many other experts in different fields and currently the literacy rate of this village is very high as compare to the other areas of District Kohistan


1. Executive Judiciary and Revenue System

Kohistan District consists of four Teshils viz Dassu, Pattan, Pallas and Kandia. The District Nazim is Chief Executive of the District assisted by Tehsil Nazim Dassu, Pattan and Pallas.

After the devolution of powers to the grass root level, all the devalued departments of the District like Finance, Education, Health, Agriculture etc. are headed by the respective EDO's under overall control and supervision of the District Coordination Officer who is assisted by the Assistant Coordination Officer and three TMO's of the TMA's Dassu, Pattan and Palas. The District Police Officer is the District Head, police department consisting of Police stations Dassu, Komila, Batera, Pattan, Dubair, Palas and Shatial. He is responsible for law and order as well as investigation branch of the police.


Before the enforcement of the Nifaz-e-Sharia Ordinance 1994, the area on the right bank of Indus (West Kohistan, which was previously ruled by the Wali of Swat during the Swat State time) was ruled by Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) Regulation while the left side administrated by regular law. After the enforcement of the above ordinance in Malakand Division and Kohistan in 1994 and subsequent promulgation of Sharia Nizam-e-Adl regulation issued on 16 January 1999 with slight amendments in February 2009, the judicial system throughout Kohistan District is not the same. The West Kohistan is judicially ruled under the Qazi courts established after the Nizam-e-Adl Regulations for Malakand division passed in 2009 whereas the East Kohistan, mainly inhabited by the Sheen people (speakers of Shina language) is judicially under the regular law.

  1. Zilla Qazi (District & Session Judge)
  2. Alla Allaqa Qazi (Senior Civil Judge)
  3. Allaqa Qazi (judicial Magistrate)
  4. Qaziul Qaza (High Court Judge)

Revenue Since no settlement has been carried out in the District therefore, revenue transaction is nominal. Tehsildar/Revenue officers and few Patwaries are entrusted the job of loan recoveries granted by Small Development Finance Cooperation (SDFC) and Zari Traqiati Bank of Pakistan (ZTBP). They are also performing the duty of land acquisition and other miscellaneous duties of relief operation, domiciles etc. the District Revenue Officer (Collector) is the head of Revenue Administration.

The District is represented in the National Assembly of Pakistan & provincial assembly by three elected MNA & MPAs who represent the following constituencies:[3]

  • NA-23 (Kohistan)
  • PK-61 (Kohistan-1)
  • PK-62 (Kohistan-2)
  • PK-63 (Kohistan-3)

Kohistan District is divided into 4Tehsils (subdivisions):

The capital of Kohistan is Dassu.


Map of Kohistan district

The name of the District has been derived from the name of the area that is Kohistan, which means the land of mountains. The District lies between 34º 54´ and 35º 52´-north latitudes and 72º43´ and 73º57´ east longitudes. It is bounded on the north and northeast by Ghizer and Diamer Districts of northern areas, on the southeast by Manshera District on the south by Battragram District and on the west by shangla and Swat Districts

Kohistan is a sparsely populated district of the Hazara division of Pakistan. Located in an area where the Eurasian landplate and Indian subcontinent meet and collide, Kohistan is susceptible to earthquake activity such as the Kashmir earthquake of 2005.

Lush green forests, meadows and streams as well as massive mountains and hills literally make Kohistan resemble the Scottish Highlands of Britain. The Indus River divides Kohistan into two parts with the eastern portion referred to as the East Kohistan and the western portion referred to as West Kohistan. The Karakoram Highway passes through Kohistan on its way to Gilgit. Most of the cities on the Karakoram Highway in Kohistan are not more than 600m high from sea level.

Kohistan is one of the most isolated and the most deprived district not only in Hazara Division but in the entire Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. Swat is situated to its west, Chilas, Darial and Tangir on the northern side and Naran, Kaghan and Alai valley surround Kohistan from the southern and eastern sides. It is located in the heart of the Himalayas from 34.40 to 30.35 degrees latitude and from 75.30 to 50.72 degrees longitude. It is connected with Dir via the Badawi Pass.

The River Indus flows through Kohistan and divides it socially and culturally. Kohistan is one of the least developed districts in the country and its national significance is the Karakurum Highway. This road is the main source of trade, transportation and link between Pakistan and China. The ancient Silk Road has long been a thoroughfare for tourists, traders and conquerors from Central Asia and in the past, business delegations would use this passage to travel up to Europe and Little Asia (Kochak).

Kohistan is where the Hindukush, Karakuram and Himalayan mountain systems meet and serve as a natural boundary for environmental regions in the chains of the Himalayas, Karakoram and Hindu Kush mountains. This uniqueness of the mountains system also results in rich flora and fauna and therefore gives home to unique species such as the western tragopan pheasant and the snow leopard.[4]


The weather of the region tends to be relatively mild with rain, snow and cold temperatures in the winter and mildly hot summers. Kohistan comprises mountains and the hilly agricultural regions. The low altitudes (below 900m) in Kohistan get very hot in summer and extremely cold in winter. In the higher regions, weather remains pleasant in summer. Due to the intensive snowfall, travelling to and from the valleys can remain restricted in winter. An avalanche in February 2010 buried a village in the district, killing at least 100 people.


Most Kohistanis rely upon animal husbandry for sustenance and income and tend to use cows, sheep, goats for milk and meat. In addition, the timber industry is on the rise, while many local men travel to find work in Peshawar, Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi.

The people in Kohistan largely depend on livestock for their livelihood and this is also the reason for their seasonal migration to sub-alpine and alpine pastures of Kohistan and neighbouring valleys and districts. Agriculture development is comparatively poor with only one crop growing in high altitudes and two in the lower areas. Cultivation of crops such as barley and rice has almost been given up.

People usually keep buffaloes, cows, sheep, goats and bullocks. Milk of these animals is not usually sold, but by-products of milk such as butter, are. Other by-products such as wool and skin are utilized for house-consumption and are also sold in the market.

Cash income is rare and people resort to the sale of timber, such as deodar, pine, spruce, acacia and oak. Sale of medicinal herbs is also common though there is no check, which impact the seasonal removal of these plants has on the overall population of the species or on the health of the ecosystem.

Besides this, people are also involved in the sale of fuel-wood, farm products such as walnuts and walnut bark (vernacular: dindasa). Honey is also sold in local and provincial markets. In winter season, the local men go to urban areas in search of work.

Language and culture[edit]

Languages of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Main language of Kohistan District is Indus Shina , Kalkoti, Chilisso, Gowro, Torwali. Minority speaks Kohistani, Pashto and Urdu.

Kohistan's population is estimated to be over 500,000. Kohistan is predominantly home to various Dardic peoples including the Khadiawal, Kayali, Shina, Kohistani, and Torwalis and share various similar cultural traits, including the religion of Islam. The majority are of the Sunni sect, but there are no other minorities are not found throughout the entire area of Kohistan District.

According to the 1981 census, the population of the district of Kohistan was 465,237; by 1998 this grew to 472,570. The average literacy rate is around two percent, but the actual literacy rate based on field data shows that this rate is three times more.[citation needed]

The geographic location – lush green valleys adorned with rich flora and fauna – were the biggest attractions for external invaders. It was also the only passage between China and South East Asia. The area remained under constant attacks by Tibetans, Sikhs, and Hindus. This constant invasion resulted in one of the most distinctive societies and cultures in the region – "The Rebellion Culture". This is the main characteristic of Kohistan, even today.


The literacy rate of the District among the population aged 10 years and above is 11.1% – male 17.23% and female 2.95%. The proportion of working or employed population to population aged 10 years and above is 26.47% which is 70.53% of the total labor force. Out of the total employed population, 71.60% are self-employed, 10.68% work as employees, and 17.32% are unpaid family helper.

Kohistan's literacy rate is amongst the lowest in Pakistan and hovers around 20%.[5] It has the lowest Human Development Index of all districts in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. But education is slowly expanding due to government efforts. After the arrival of Pakistan's Army for relief operations following the earthquake of October 2005, the educational system received a sudden boost-up, and most of the schools are working. The Army's commanding Officer of the area, Lt. Col. Sibghat Ullah, took responsibility for one school in Pattan (The Army Garrison School [Pattan]) which has become a role model for the complete district.

In total there are four Army supported schools established in Kohistan, which include the Army School for Girls, Shalkanabad (Palas); the Army School for boys, Keyal; and the Community Model School for girls at Pattan.

After the departure of the Pakistan Army from the area, the standard of the schools could not be maintained by the local authorities, and thus the standards declined.

In 2006 the National Commission for Human Development NCHD re-trained the Education Department for exercising the Base line survey of 0-9 YEARS.The teachers at their locations carried out the survey in entire Kohistan and after data analysis the target of 5–7 years for enrollment under the Universal primary education -UPE was achieved. NCHD paly also its role in the Adult literacy program with a target age group of 11–45 years by community support.The Than UPE team headed by Shahzad Humayun DPME NCHD( 2006–07) orchestrated all the support with the help of DCO AND District nazim to support the Education department for maximum enrollment. NCHD strives for the UPE which is the second major goal of MDGs for improving the human development index.More over Feeder schools were established to enroll children previously deprived from enrollment due to long distance from schools.[citation needed] It should be added that the community is highly positive for facilitation.[clarification needed]

See also[edit]