KPK History / Pakistan

Composition of Village Council Of Patan, Indus Kohistan, 1954

Patan: Thus in the village or territory of Patan, there is a central council of 12-1 3 members (zetwan). This council also has a clerk or agent (kotwal), who is of poor family and has no vote in the council or political powers of any kind, but who in return for a set remuneration serves as messenger, informs the council members of time and place of meeting, etc. Before the conquest by Swat, the council had a separate fortified tower in the winter village of Patan. Decisions of the council are definitive and must be followed; where basic agreement cannot be reached by the council members, the matter is postponed, and informal discussions and deals are arranged, in preparation for reintroducing the topic at a later meeting.

The members sit in the village council as the recognized representatives of segments of the three major lineages – or rather, of the political groups of which these lineage segments form the core, they thus speak also for the allies and clients of the segment, rather than for the strictly genealogically defined group. A man is selected to represent his group for his oratorical and argumentative abilities and is exchanged the moment he loses the confidence of the group he should represent. In actual fact, he seems to be exchanged often, most informants said every one or two years, unless he emerges as the unchallenged speaker and leader of the group. Since he is the elected representative of a recognized group, there are no formal restrictions to candidacy – e. g. as in the rest of the area, a requirement that he must own land: In addition to the three lineages, the community of Mians has a seat in the council.

The central council, in its formal assumptions, presupposes the existence of smaller, less formalized councils of each of the groups represented; thus each of the 13 members must be appointed or acclaimed by a council meeting of the members of the group he is to represent. Similarly, the smooth functioning of the central council presupposes less formal meetings within and between its component factions.

A man may call a meeting of – or, to translate the idiom, – any council in which he has a right to speak at any time. If he is calling the central council, he does so through the kotwal agent; smaller groups are collected by himself or his dependent male relatives – brothers, sons, etc. The only corporate group which can act without a preceding council discussion is the household, in which the senior man has unquestioned authority. Patan consists of some 300 such relatively speaking autonomous households; the system of councils functions to coordinate them into corporate groups of varying size and composition.

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, 36-37.

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