How do the Kalash Fare in the Present Climate of Unrest?

The Kalash remained relatively undisturbed until September 2009 when Athanassios Lerounis -a Greek charity worker and resident in the Kalash Valleys- was kidnapped by a group of Taliban-style militants from across the Afghan border. As well as kidnapping Athanassios the militants killed the policeman who was guarding him and badly beat a Kalash teacher who was with Athanassios at the time. Thankfully, due to the combined action of the Kalash, Nuristanis in the Kalash Valleys and the Pakistani authorities Athanassios was released in April 2010. However, the kidnapping and even more so, the tragic death of the policeman who had tried to defend Athanassios has demonstrated that the Kalash are not safe from the wave of militant Taliban-style Islam sweeping across the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan.

That being said it is important not to compare Chitral, the region in which the Kalash Valleys are to be found with other areas in the NWFP, especially Swat and Dir, which lie to the south of Chitral. The Pakistani army and police have complete control over Chitral and there has been no fighting or bombing in the region -although there has been conflict along the Chitral's borders-. This stability is primarily due to the fact that Chitral is a religiously complex and diverse region where the ideas propagated by the Taliban have indifferent purchase . Although Chitral is 60% Sunni (the same creed as the Taliban) it is 40% Ismaili (a branch of Shiaism which is abhorrent to the Taliban).

In the Kalash Valleys most families are part Muslim, part Kalash. Everyone in the valleys agrees that the most important thing is for Kalash and Muslim to respect each other and to cooperate with each other. By and large Kalash, Kalash who have converted to Islam and non Kalash Muslim neighbours maintain good relations.

Chitral's isolation also protects it from insurgency, it is separated from the rest of the province by several massive mountain ranges, which are often impassable in winter. Taking Chitral's geographical isolation and the relatively anti-Taliban nature of its population it is extremely unlikely that the region will be overrun by Taliban-style militants. However, it is possible that Chitral could become the scene for further kidnappings and maybe even bombings.