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PROTECTING THE INDIGENOUS GROUPS OF PAKISTAN

Indigenous people are those groups especially protected in international or national legislation as having a set of specific rights based on their historical ties to a particular territory, and their cultural or historical distinctiveness from other populations. The legislation is based on the conclusion that certain indigenous people are vulnerable to exploitation, marginalization and oppression by nation states formed from colonizing populations or by politically dominant, different ethnic groups.
The several major indigenous groups that can be found in Pakistan are the Kashmiris, Hindkowans, Kalashi, Burusho, Balti,Brahui, Khowar, Shina, Balochi ,Hazaras and Turwalis. Most of them live up in the northern and southern areas of Pakistan. The groups in Gilgit-Baltistan, Kohistan, Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (the Shina and Dardic) are also to be found in India. Many indigenous tribes also live in Sindh and Baluchistan, the most prominent ones in terms of lifestyle are the indigenous tribes from Makran. Most of their language is in written script, but some are not, thus they face serious threat of extinction, although some effort is made in scripting their languages, like in the Dardic Kalash, thanks to the tireless effort of Kalash Development Network working in the Chitral-Kalash valleys.
Speaking in constitutional terms, it is only the Hindu, the Christians and the Ahmadis (though they are a Muslim sect) are accorded as minorities based on religion, where as all other indigenous groups are not given their religious recognition, hence the indigenous face serious legal challenges besides social degradation as they remain outside the official “minority” ambit. Moreover only the classified religious minorities can avail the new government announcement of increase in National Assembly and Provincial Assembly seats for religious minorities, hence the indigenous are lesser beneficiaries when it comes to it as they have to compete for general seats. This can be exemplified by the fact that the Kalashas are still struggling for enlisting their religion in the NADRA for issuance of National ID cards.
In another example, the indigenous groups are getting openly exploited by the Government Department. For example the vast forest lands have been sold by the Joint Forest Management Committee ( JFMC) to contractors there who are destroying the forests in the Kalash valleys, the population of which depends heavily on the woods for livelihood. The Government supported forest mafia is not only stealing wood, but is also harassing the Gujjer tribes coming from higher pastures of Astore valley down to lower areas while passing through Azad Kashmir because of the expensive rare herbs and flora they carry with them. There is no protection provided that they deserve, but instead, the situation is vice versa for them.
It is also noted that Pakistan has not ratified international covenants regarding this, hence further allowing their lives to be more miserable by the mafias and the lawless. This creates a sense of alienation and resentment among our indigenous groups rather than feeling a part of a nation we call Pakistan. It is the lack of commonsense and indifference on part of the government that doesn’t encourage their legal recognition, but rather do so superficially only for the sake of earning commercial gains from tourism. Their real rights of existence which is neglected is affecting the general economy indirectly and doesn’t allow for the country to prosper through their repressed economic participation. The lack of dignity is pushing Pakistan backwards instead of progressing. Also on the international front where Pakistan is looked down upon, this issue also adds salt to the wounds. Diversity in Pakistan is unfortunately degraded due to the powerful religious lobby that doesn’t allow for anything that diminishes their power even if it’s in the corner of the street where their mosque deliver unchecked sermons against the lifestyles of our indigenous groups.
The legislation is based on the conclusion that certain indigenous people are vulnerable to exploitation, marginalization and oppression by nation
A nation can never prosper unless it understands its wounds and rectifies it to improve its legislation to protect all its citizens, especially those who are vulnerable and endangered. Rather, our Government shows little concern about the nexus some government bodies, the forest rangers and the Timber mafias have formed that harass our indigenous groups who lack legal protection in the country

 
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