The conversion to Islam of a 14-year-old girl from Kalasha community, Pakistan’s smallest religious minority, has sparked clashes between majority Muslims and a few thousand remaining members of the animist tribe. Nestled in the picturesque Chitral valley, the Kalasha people, who follow an ancient animistic religion and number only around 3,000, had claimed that the teenage girl was lured to convert to Islam.
However, a district official today said that the girl has recorded her statement before the court that she converted out of her own free will.
Yesterday, clashes were reported between Muslims and the Kalasha people after the girl returned back to her family amid reports that she was lured and coerced to convert to Islam.
According to eye witnesses, a mob of few hundred Muslim men attacked a house in the Kalash tribe’s valley of Bumburate in the northern district of Chitral after the girl returned and police had to fire tear gas to disperse the crowd.
Chitral Deputy Commissioner Usama Waraich said that the situation was now under control and the issue has been resolved as both local Muslims and Kalasha people have agreed to respect the girl’s decision.
However, some elders of the Kalasha community still claim that the girl was forcefully converted and demand an impartial probe into the matter.
Kalasha people mostly live in Bamburate, Birir and Rambur regions of Chitral, a northern district in the troubled Khyber-Pukhtunkwa province.
The closely-knit community with its distinctive language, colourful dresses, songs and dances and elaborate rituals, has long been an anomaly in the Muslim-majority Pakistan and are under increased threat from militants who want to convert them to Islam.
Local legends also connect Kalasha people to the descendants of the soldiers of Alexander the Great, who passed this area in 326 BC during Alexander’s India campaign.
Some of the soldiers settled in the cold climes of the scenic Chitral valley after Alexander abruptly ended his India campaign and decided to return back to Greece, local folk-lore say.