• The Afghan nomad tribes are known in local languages as the Koochis or Pawandahs. They are the largest migratory people on earth. According to 1980 statistics, their population was estimated to be 2.5 million. From April 1978 till date, Afghanistan is passing through the trauma of occupation and wars. Therefore, latest statistics cannot be obtained.
• From centuries, their survival depended on flocks of sheep or goats. To chase greener pastures, they migrate in autumn from colder regions of Afghanistan towards southern Afghanistan but along the route, nearly 40 % cross over the border through several mountain passes into Pakistan which shares a border of approximately 2400 km. Of these, the nomads crossing points stretch up to approximately 900 km.
• They are ethnically from the Pashtun stock and their main tribe is called Ghalzi or Ghalji. There are dozens of sub-tribes and hundreds of sub-sub tribes and clans. In over 500 years of Muslim Pashtun rule over India, the Ghaljis ruled over Northern India (Delhi Sultanate) from 1290 AD to 1320 AD and were known as the Khilji dynasty. Before them, the Ghaznavid and Ghori dynasty conquests and rule started in the year 970 AD.
• There are two controversial but strong theories that the origin of the Pashtuns is Semite (the lost tribe of Israelites) or are Arabs with a strong mix of Aryans and some mix of the Greek,Turk, Persian blood etc.
Routes of Movement and Destinations:
• Their routes of entry and movement within the North West Province (NWFP) are shown in the map. Majority of those who enter NWFP from Afghanistan cross into the flat and fertile lands of the Punjab province across the Indus river. From those who enter through Baluchistan Province, many cross over into the southern most Pakistan province of Sind.
• Before the partition of the sub-continent in August 1947, these nomadic camel caravans even used to cross into India and reach as far as West Bengal and Madras in the south. Bollywood has produced two movies based on the short story of Nobel Laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore. In mid 19th century, approximately 2000 Cameleers were invited to Australia by the Australian government along with 15000 camels, in order to help develop railroads and telegraph lines. Majority of them were the Afghan Koochis Presently, a traveling exhibition is underway in museums of different cities of Australia to recall their colourful history. Visit their website for details: www.cameleers.net
• Ghalji’s are one of the most colourful people on earth. They are known world wide for their female’s dresses, trinkets, embroidery and male warrior dances. Many folk songs and novels are written on them in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
• Hollywood has produced at least two movies is based on a novel called “The Caravans” in the early 70‘s. Besides, hundreds of features are written on them in the major magazines of the world.
• The Bollywood film makers of India which is known to be the largest producer of movies in the world till date has a role for these tribesmen, depicting them as money lenders, guards or toughies.
• Collect information from all entry / exit points along the 900 km stretch in the month of March & April at exit time. This will include info about the size of their families, livestock, gender, children, health issues, mortality rate, serious diseases in livestock or humans, literacy level, coming from, going to, difficulties faced, occupations when in Pakistan, compulsions to cut trees, fears, willing to cooperate with the project after October 2007 in exchange for certain benefits and how else can the project help them in future etc.
• Develop a data base of above information.
• Inform the nomads through every means possible that such and such facilities or assistance can be made available to them in the course of their stay in Pakistan, provided they do not indulge in cutting of trees and damage to the environment.