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Baba Ghundi festival brings together Afghans, Pakistanis

GILGIT: The 12th International Baba Ghundi Festival kicked off on Friday in Upper Hunza’s Chipursan valley, close to the Pak-Afghan border.The festival was held every year at the shrine of revered Sufi saint Baba Ghundi to pay homage for his services to spread Islam in the region.The festival, which was held near Afghanistan’s Wakhan region, brings together the Wakhi speaking people from the two countries.

The three-day festival was inaugurated by Force Commander Gilgit Baltistan Maj Gen Jawwad Ahmed. The ceremony was attended by a large number of tourists, locals and officials.The festival was being organised by the Chipursan Local Support Organisation in collaboration with the Gilgit-Baltistan government.

Sufi night, Buzkashi competitions, polo matches, traditional sword dance, Yak Safari and race, traditional food and folk Wakhi music were part of the festival.The festival was included in the annual calendar of the GB government in 2010. However, it couldn’t be held in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 restrictions.The residents of the Wakhan region, who have ancestral and cultural ties with the people of Chipursan and Gojal valleys in Upper Hunza, travel on yaks, crossing glaciers and mountain peaks for days to attend the festival.

This journey is only possible during the summer season that lasts from June to September.Rahimullah Baig, a resident of Gojal, told Dawn that the people of Chipursan and Wakhan had been carrying out barter trade for centuries.Afghan traders cross the Irshad Pass and exchange yaks, sheep and goats with shoes, garments, utensils and other products procured from the Pakistan side.

The organisers said the festival provided an opportunity to the people of both Chipursan and Wakhan to interact and develop trade links.A large number of devotees also visit the shrine from various parts of GB and enjoy Buzkashi and yak race competitions held there.