KPK History / Pakistan

Ethnic Groups In Indus Kohistan And Their Trading Pattern, 1954

Indus and Swat Kohistan are inhabited by several distinct ethnic groups: the Kohistani proper of Indus Kohistan, subdivided into two dialect groups who disclaim any genetic relationship to each other; the Gawri in the north and the Torwali in the south of Swat Kohistan, these three all being what has been called Dardic (Linguistic Survey of India), i. e. old Indo-Aryan speaking peoples; Pashto-speaking people, ruled by members of saintly families, mainly in the southern parts of Indus Kohistan; and Gujars, some as nomadic summer visitors, some in permanent settlements, speakers of Pashto or Gujri (a lowland Indian dialect), and mainly found in Swat Kohistan. Finally, two settlements of Badeshi are reported to exist in Chakesar just south of Indus Kohistan, presumably belonging to the Dardic group of peoples.

Kohistani is divided into two local dialects, separating Jijil-Patan-Seo and the trans-Indus Kohistaei speakers from the remaining communities. Socio-political units correspond to territorial subdivisions of smaller size. Where a compact winter village is found, its inhabitants form an autonomous political unit. Where settlement is dispersed, territorial units with vague centers are defined:

Compact villages: Lahor, Bankott, Ranolia, Jijal, Patan, Seo, Jalkot, Palas. Dispersed habitation: Duber valley, centering in Duber Fort. Lower Kandia, centering in Toti. Middle Kandai, centering in Karang. Upper Kandii, centering in Gabral.

According both to Kohistai and Pathan tradition, the population remained pagan in religion till fairly recently, some 6-10 generations ago, when they were forcibly converted by Pathan zealots, led by the holy leaders Akhund Sadiq Baba, Mian Baqi Baba, and Mian Baba (by Pathan genealogies, based on written evidence, 8 generations removed). Politically, the area remained independent after conversion.

The Yusufzai State of Swat, which was founded in tribal territory between 19 19 and 1926, has recently extended its control to include the whole of Aba Sind province, completing this annexation in 1940. Before this, no centralized administration for the area existed in recent times, though a certain local chief, Abdus Samad, was able by intriguing with the competing states of Swat and Amb, and receiving subsidies from both, to gain control of the lower part of the west bank of Indus, including the communities of Bannkott, Lahor, Bisham Shang, and Kerrei (Karorra valley). The annexation by Swat was fairly bloodless and the recent period of administration peaceful; this has enabled the Swat Government to lay telephone lines to their military posts and to some extent improve communications. Sir Aurel Stein was thus able, as the first European, to visit the area in 1941 (Stein 1942). There do not seem to have been any other European travellers in the province…

The Kohistani communities depend on a certain amount of trade to secure some essential products, mainly salt, iron, and some textiles, as well as various luxury items (Such a standard trade item as tea has not yet penetrated to Kohistan, and only reached the neighboring Pathan areas some 30 years ago). Much of this trade is carried on by the Kohistani farmers themselves, trudging for many days over the high passes and along the foaming Indus to sell, buy, or barter in the bazars of Swat. The nearest bazar is in Karorra at the termination of the motorable road from Mingora. This bazar counts 50-60 booths – but most Kohistanis who make the trip prefer to continue on to the main bazar of Mingora.

A fair amount of goods is also carried on the newly constructed track along the Indus up to Seo, by the mule caravans of Pathan traders of the Paracha caste.

Most of the trade is financed by the sale of clarified butter, or by the profits gained on carrying spices from Tangir (N. of Kandia) to the bazar. Occasionally, though unwillingly, Kohistanis also seek work in the richer areas of Swat and return with their profits in the form of goods. Some money may also be brought into the area by the few individuals who have sought work in the administered areas of Pakistan.

Reference (Source of Information):

Fredrik Barth, Indus and Swat Kohistan, An Anthropological Survey, STUDIES, HONOURING THE CENTENNIAL OF UNIVERSITETETS, ETNOGRAFISKE MUSEUM, OLSO, 1857-1957, VOLUME II, 12-27.

The Chief Editor of the website ( is Jalal Uddin. He hails from Saidu Sharif, Swat. He is M.phil Scholar and his research field is Swat State. He regularly writes on Swat State and its various aspects.
The Chief Editor of the website ( is Jalal Uddin. He hails from Saidu Sharif, Swat. He is M.phil Scholar and his research field is Swat State. He regularly writes on Swat State and its various aspects.
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