“All my 17 employees are from Chitral and one of them is a finance manager for the last two decades at my confectionery shop. I will look for another Chitrali if the manager quits the job because they are very honest,” said the proprietor of a prominent confectionery shop in Peshawar.
Chitral is a district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in its extreme north surrounded by Hindukush chain of mountains from three sides and Lowari Pass in its south.
The Lowari Pass receives snow from the early days of winter severing connection of the district from rest of the country for over four months.
The people speak Khowar language and come of a distinct ethnic group which is essentially Central Asian and Turkish.
Chitralis mostly come to Peshawar to earn livelihood by working in different capacities such as traders, labourers, government servants, domestic workers and salesmen in shops.
Peshawar also serves as the centre of learning for Chitralis, both religious and school education.
According to estimates, over 90% of the educated people in Chitral have studied in the religious seminaries, schools and colleges of Peshawar.
Chitralis form the third largest ethnic group in the provincial metropolis after Pashto and Hindko speaking people whose households have been estimated at 35,000 while they have successfully retained their cultural identity from being amalgamated into others despite their long association with the diverse civilisations spanning over seven decades.
The people of Chitral residing in Peshawar have made their presence felt in all walks of life, including in the field of business and entrepreneurship.
According to a recent survey conducted by the Chitral Business Community Peshawar (CBCP) — the organisation of Chitrali businessmen in Peshawar — over 800 shops from Karkhano Bazaar to Sardar Garhi were owned by Chitralis.
CBCP president Sadiq Amin said that there was hardly any field of business which had evaded the attention of Chitrali businessmen.
He said that the Chitrali businessmen are concentrated in Islamabad Bazaar situated behind Qissa Khwani Bazaar where the number of their shops is about 450 while the bazaar is the hub of Chitrali Patti (coarse cloth made of sheep wool) products.
The bazaar was established at the time of the country’s independence when the Hindu and Sikh shopkeepers migrated to India abandoning their shops.
He said that over a quarter of the Chitrali traders in Peshawar were those who have made Peshawar their permanent place of abode.
Based on the CBCP survey, he said, 53% of Chitralis residing in Peshawar owned their own houses.
Amin said that Chitralis tended to live in a specific locality and they refrained from residing in an area having less number of their own community people.
The residential areas with high concentration of Chitrali community include the Afghan Colony, Jahangirpura, Amin Colony, Dhaki Naalbandi and Hashtnagri in the city area, Gulberg in the cantonment area, Danishabad and Police Colony in the University Town area and Dauranpur in the rural area of Peshawar on the GT Road.
He said that the Chitral community had recently completed a housing scheme named Golen Housing Society on the GT Road while it was managed by Chitralis themselves.
Most of the mosques in the city are occupied by the Chitrali imams and muezzins and they command respect among the people, while over 40 religious seminaries are operated by the religious leaders from Chitral.
Amin said that the young generation from Chitral had come to excel in different professions, while in the civil service the men from Chitral had reached the post of secretary to the government of a number of provincial departments.
He puts the number of officers and officials of lower grade in different government offices at about 12, 00.
About the social cohesion among the members of Chitrali community, Amin said that it was the strongest one of all the communities residing in Peshawar.
Their spirit of mutual co-operation and fellow feelings on the occasions of troubles and stress and rushing to help each other is cited as an example by other communities.
The community has also bought a piece of land in Peshawar 25 years ago for a graveyard specific for Chitralis.
The CBCP president said that the Chitral Union established in 1951 by Master Waliuddin, Mir Ahmed Bulbul, Nadir Khan, Mohamed Shah and Ustad Shamsur Rahman had been rendering valuable services for keeping the community united in Peshawar.
Any dispute between any two members of the community is decided by arbitration of the union, he said and claimed that there was no example of their case being heard in the court of law.
Amin said that the local people did not hesitate to give hands of their daughters to men from Chitral and vice-versa, which showed the cordial relations between the Chitrali and other communities in Peshawar.
About the political influence of Chitrali community in Peshawar, journalist Mohamed Sharif Shakib said that it was nominal due to their settlement in scatted places of the district.
However, he said, that in the last local government elections they were given due importance by political parties.
He said that the Chitrali community in Peshawar was still facing problems, which needed to be resolved by the government.

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