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Resuscitating Endangered Languages – Part IV

Very recently, famous author, Zafarullah Parwan has written a fiction titled Angar Sitano, thereby playing an important role in promotion of Khowar fiction. In the district of Ghizar, prominent poets and authors of Khowar are: Syed Murad Ali Shah Aajiz, Javed Hayat Kakakhel, Sarfaraz Shah and Shamsul Haw Nawarz. Javed Hayat Kakakhel’s composition “Gurzain” was published in 2018. In addition to Chitral and Ghizar, Khowar is also spoken as a mother tongue communities Swat, Xinjiang, Lower Pamir and Pron, Afghanistan.
Khyber Pakhtun Khwa (KPK) Assembly passed a Bill regarding inclusion of Khowar along with other languages of the province in the syllabus from first class to secondary level. Work on the syllabus was undertaken till 2013, but it was stopped the same year with the coming of the PTI government.
Inyatullah Faizi explains further that the interim caretaker government resumed work on the syllabus in 2018 and currently, 1st and 2nd class books are under review and printing stages.
Burushaski Language
Brushaski language, spoken in Hunza, Nagar, Ghizar and Gilgit, has been classified as a non-Dardic language. It is pertinent to note that the rulers of Hunza were Burusho but their court and official language had been Persian. It could be this very reason that no separate script of the language evolved earlier. G.W. Leitner, John Biddulph, Backstrom, Lorimer and Harman Berger are some of the foreign researchers who have studied different aspects of the language. Burushaski is one of the languages of the world that cannot be traced back to other languages; it is therefore classified as a ‘language isolate’.
In 1889, G.W..Leitner introduced Roman script in Brushaski while his successor Biddulph made further improvements upon it. According to Dr Tariq Rehman, European researcher Lorimer promoted researches in Brushaski along with other local languages. After which, prominent personality of Hunza Haji Qudratullah Baig endeavored to form Brushaski script with the help of both Roman and Urdu but this did not prove to be effective.
From 1940 onwards, renowned author, researcher, great litterateur and Sufi poet, Allama Nasiruddin Hunzai, who authored over 100 books and had the distinction of being a poet having his own Diwan, played a significant role in promotion and propagation of Burushaski through profusion of mystical compositions, as well as prose.
On private level, Hunzai also established the Burushaski Research Academy which has patronized various publications.  Famous researcher Herman Berger in collaboration with Allama Nasiruddin complied a 3-volume Burusahski-Germany dictionary at Germany’s reputed Heidelberg University.
According to Professor Aslam Nadeem, Allam Nasiruddin too, with the help of Persian, Arabic, Sami, Hindi, Urdu and Sanskirt, formed Brushaski script. Allama Nasiruddin Hunzai says that two words of Brushaski i.e ‘girminas’ writing and ‘gatanas’ reading/learning make it construable that Brushaski is an ancient language.
Although Dr Ahmad Hassan Dani could understand and speak 17 languages, he could not get nothing out of the ancient rock carvings and engraved writings on rocks situated at Dong Das near the old village of Ganish in Hunza. Researchers believe that these rock carvings could be in ancient Burushaski script. However, a breakthrough in reading them could become possible in future when modern scientific apparatus may enable attestation to it as old Burushaski script or otherwise.
The second personality having done mystical work in Burushaski is Ghulamuddin Hunzai who has been contemporaneous to Allam Naseeruddin Hunza. Ghulamuddin Hunzai too has his Diwan of poetry. He devotes all his time to extensive studies and researches. He has also translated the Holy Quran to Burushaski. Famed researchers Fida Ali Aisar and Dr Najibullah too have composed mystical poetry and composed ghazals in Burushaski.
In the current era, Aajiz Karim too has become prominent for his mystical compositions in mother tongue Brsushaski. In Hunza Valley, Hamayun Shah, Ustad Ghulam Abbas Hasanabadi, Sherbaz Ali Khan Barcha, Sultan Ali, Shahid Akhtar, Meezam Dawar, Imran Hunzai and Rahim Hayat Hunzai are known for romantic poetry in Brushaski.
A great work seems to have been done on Brushaski in Yasin Valley. Prominent poet Basharat Shafi’s outputs are in the process of publication. Besides him, Sher Shahi, Jamail, Abdul Malik, Ali Madad Bai, Mayun, Niat Shah Qalandar, Bulbul-e-Yasin, Nadir Shai, Asif Ali Ashraf, Riaz Saqi, Fakharuddin, Gul Nayab, Aasim Shikast, Jamshed Figar, Umran Nasrind, Fakhar Khani, Dildar Ali Dildar, Muhammad Rahim Begana, Anwar Amin, Ali Ahmad Jan, Mehboob Yasini, Ashfaq Ali and Abid Ali Shah are doing well promoting Brushaski through their compositions.
Wazir Advocate is another researcher from Yasin who has done a great deal of work on rules, ancient words and script of Burushaski. His literary products “Brushaski Rizan” was published by Karachi University’s department of Tasneef-o-Taleef. In Nagar Valley, the phraseology of Agha Muhammad Yahya Shah is significant, which, though widely referred to in political and social gatherings, have not yet been published.
In Nagar, a considerable work on Burushaski stand to have been done through Marsia Nigari. In this context, Ismail Nashad, Muhammad Ali Noon, Sheikh Mohsni and Ehsan Ali appear to be on top of the list. In addition, Ehsan Ali also says verse in Shina. In Burushaski language, news, dramas and other programmes are relayed from Radion Pakistan Gilgit while several organizations (Anjamans) are at work by holding literary and cultural gatherings in Burushaski.
The researcher on Brushaski Amir Haider says that a recent survey has unfolded that the Brushaski speaking people from Hunza are getting used to using more and more Urdu and English words while in Ghizar Khowar languages seem to have a dominating influence on Brushaski.
WaKhi Language
Wakhi language is spoken in Upper Chitral, Upper Ghizar and Upper Hunza. It is also spoken in Wakhan valley of Afghanistan and Tajikistan, and the Xinjiang region of China. Quite interestingly, there is no significant difference between the language spoken in these areas.
Dr Ahmad Hassan Dani, like Pashtu and Baluchi, includes Wakhi in the ancient Iranian group of languages. But he says that this does not mean that the Wakhi speakers ethnically relate to Persia.
According to Dr Tariq Rehman, until 80s no Wakhi script was forthcoming. However, famous Wakhi researcher Haqiqat Ali, while assisting a foreign researcher, for the first time complied a Wakhi primer with the help of Roman alphabets. His successor, Ahmad Jami Sakhi, later, separately introduced Wakhi primer with the help of Arabic letters.
In the decade of eighties, Wakhi students of Karachi University published a magazine by the title of ‘Wakh’. According to famed researcher and linguist, Fazal Amin Baig, a body called Wakhi Tajik Cultural Association, known by its acronym WTCA, was brought into being in 1991 for the protection and promotion of Wakhi language and culture.
WTCA has since the early nineties organized mega festivals, bringing Wakhi artists from China to the Gojal Valley, thus laying the foundation for cross-border collaborations on culture and heritage.


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