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Homepage of Razwal Kohistani

Lesser Known Tribes of Indus Kohistan

Home Social setup

Jirga System Organization Role of Zetoo Women Role 


Any local "Ulsia" Kamin, Yashkun, Shin or Chilis who lives anywhere in these valleys or his caste keeps property given in Wesh by including him for a bigger share (bago) or a smaller share (Tago), can become a permanent and formal member of the Shin Jirga Organization. Besides these no one of "Faqir" (alien) or "Ulsia" (benefited resident) such as Syed or Pathan who might have lived in these valleys for many centuries or he might be holding any social or religious position, can neither become a member of the Shin Jirga nor can he influence its decisions. The membership of the Jirga is conditional to the rights of Wesh which can not be suspended or terminated for likes or dislikes of any person. Membership is a permanent inherited right. No unconcerned body can use the name of any clan as a reference of his lineage. The beginning of membership starts from home or household. Step by step his is acknowledged as a member of the small and big Jirgas taking place within his tribe and local economic circles. The Jirga and circles provide an identity to the member.


Traditional Institutions

 Shin Jirga in Kohistan holds a multi-group system in its structure and traditional administrative setup. Basically power to make important decisions lies with the clans.

In Kolai, Palas and Jalkot, the current and old all traditional organizations come into being with the support of their opponents in their circles. Such Jirgas could be called local and lineage groups. I like more to call them organizational circles because due to their nature, such Jirgas are found organized only in small and large Jirga circles. Every member is aware of its small and large organizational circle which is his identity also.

 Any organization or folk institute found on a larger basis, is established fundamentally on local basis and on availability of resources. Various major castes such as Shin, Yashkun and Kamin and their group tribes, clans and households or found organized within the Jirga or organizational circles.

 Organizational alignment of Shin tribes is based on segmentary system. Lineage identification is based on paternal relationship. All the Shins who are found from Kolai to Northern Pakistan and upto Jammu and Ladakh, acknowledge to be Shin as their lineage. They think that they all belong to the same blood. Now they are organized in the form of separate tribes and groups. That is why mostly regional and lineage identification is sought from the tribal or clan branches. The Yashkuns and Kamin who are although accommodated in their organizational circles but for their identification there refer to their own branch. The lineage is expressed and identified by various tree branches and chains which reflects the existence of an organized and integrated system.

Organizational setup of Shin tribes of Palas Valley, Indus Kohistan.  (Razwal, 1998)

The smallest unit of a Shin organization or folk institute is home or household. To the extent of Khel (i.e. lineage which is now called caste by these people) all people are blood related. From ten to twelve generations make one Khel. Organizationally upto this extent, the people physically or financially help each other much more and they stay united for their external enemy.

 Any household or family is linked more or less to ten chains or clusters within his organizational circles from home to the establishment of a larger group which are references to his identity. On every level the organizational circles are autonomous in running their matters. The reason for it is that the functions, the nature and the role of it is clearly mentioned on every level. Traditionally no trespass is done which is the virtue of the tradition. In order to mention it more easily, we will move the matter ahead from these same circles because these people remain organized only in these circles, rings and clusters.

 The people organized in a Khel belong to the same blood and close generations. If we take a look at it with reference to the population, from two hundred to one thousand individuals are found in it. It is a large reference to a close lineage attachment for identification. In simple words it may be called lineage also. It is called caste (zat) in Kohistan and "Tabar" ( family, household) in Darel, Thor and Harban. Up from it is found the Jirga of "Tabin" (clan) wherein are included zats (castes). Their number has been found from seven to ten. The individuals of such clans or castes are largely found at different places of the valleys. Clans have a right to veto within their "Rom". It is not possible to implement a decision in the common affairs without their consensus.

 The clans keep associated with the lower or larger tribes than themselves which are two levels up from them. But if their is any risk to the interests of the clan, it uses its right to veto. From defense point of view, sometimes a clan is called "si:N" (crowd) also which means queue or army. Groupings or opposition is maintained within the clan also so that the alliance, criticism, accountability, local defense and the management of resources could be dynamically dealt with or controlled.

 If seen from the perspective of the regional defense, their council which is established during tough conditions, that also is established relying on a clan and a "zetu" is chosen from this same council. There is one more term called "Tal" in between a caste and a clan.

The level or Jirga upper than clan is called "Qam". In Palas, Jalkot and Kolai, its number is four in each place. Nowadays, these tribes in Kolai, Palas and Jalkot, are separately organized in local circles but in the past they all were organized in one circle. In Palas at upper level from these sub-tribes, one larger organization is found which these people call "Qom". It is two in number: one is Darma and the other Khuka Manka. Both are Shins. It will not be out of place to say here that the other branches and tribes of Darma are found Northern Areas in Phulwai and Kel in Neelam valley and in Gurez valley which is also called Gure:N.

 The groups, tribes and the organizational alignment and scope of work of their lower branches are stated separately so that their nature could be understood.

Shin Tribes

In Kohistan and Northern Areas, Moorcroft, Wine, Arther, Leitner, Drew, Biddulph and the later scholars merely emphasized on which local community could or could not marry among the people of another local community, instead of understanding the social stratification in the perspective of the local traditional system. Instead of relating it with the kinship system, they concluded on the same basis that there was the concept of 'who is higher and who is lower' among the people pertaining to Shin, YashkuN and Kamin castes. Hence many other local castes and racial species were ignored who are living here for centuries. The result was that the new researchers, both internal and external, have been keeping this hypothesis in their mind during their work. Karl Jettmar also relied on the Punjabi word "kami" on the same basis to define the local Kamin community as socially low while the word "kami", "kamin" and "kamiN" are three different words denoting different meanings. He says in another place that the caste system in Kohistan and Northern Areas is founded on the basis of four castes i.e. Shin, YashkuN, KamiN and Doom and that this system was adopted from Hindus.

"The population was organized into four castes, Shins, YashkuNs, Kamins, and Doms since a very early time, maybe, according to a model token from a neighboring arc were Hinduism which was still prevalent."


But, perhaps this hypothesis would not work in Kohistan and Northern Areas because the classification of the old and new Jirga and caste system has refuted this view. In Shina language and culture, traditionally two terms, "Ulsia" and "Faqir" are found to distinguish within the castes.


This clear and undisputed approach for distinguishing among the casts, is prevailing among the local population for centuries. Shin, YashkuN, KamiN and Doom indicate their racial affiliations. These terms have never been in use to differentiate between the castes, nor can it be interpreted so from the terms used on the basis of four castes among Hindus. There is no restriction on the above mentioned three castes to doing any social or economical duties that are reflected in Hindu social system. Perhaps, marrying or not marrying in each other's communities can also is not used as logic to prove an existence of social superiority or inferiority because there are the Shins who only prefer to marry within the sub-circles of the circles of their kinship. There are plenty of such examples among the Shins in just one valley where the Shins do not preferably marry among the Shins pertaining to another circle of Kinship.

The Lineage Background

It is very difficult to tell who were the first settlers in Northern Pakistan, i.e. before the Arians groups. Most probably people did live in this region before history and the lower area of current Pakistan was merged in water. In the later periods, the people pertaining to Drawar civilization lived here who had a war in Dardistan before 1500 B.C to 500 B.C. Moreover, since the boundaries or the tracks of this region joined Central Asia, the current Chinese province and Tibet, their influence is also found on the north (We mean the influence on the kinship background of Shin, YashkuN and Kamin and Baltis and Broshaskies are excluded from it.)

There is unanimity among most of the people about Shin and YashkuN being Aryans and they migrated from Central Asia. In the course of long history other people were also mixed with him.


Sir William Jones used the term of Shin and YashkuN in 1786 in Calcutta as a linguistic distinction. After this these terms became common to indicate kinship terms. Annul Haq Farid Koti writes in this connection,

Max Muller merely meant one linguistic group by using the term of Arya who had no relationship with skin color or race; he himself says,

"I have stated for many times that when I use the term Arya, I do not mean either blood, or bones, or the color of hair and the structure of head. But I only mean merely one linguistic group holding Aryan languages."

Mohammad Shuja Namoos and Usman Ali have elaborated in their books that Shins are Aryans. Similarly Kaneez Fatima writes in her book "Dardistan Ka Nasbi Mutalia" in the light of historical evidence and Jettmar's findings that Shin and YashkuN are Aryans.

Karl Jettmar says on the basis of the evidences derived from old remnants that Shin and YashkuN migrated from Central Asia. He has tried to prove his view by referring to old remnants, religions and folk practices. It is told that they migrated to Indian sub-continent 1500 B.C to 1000 B.C. Yahya Amjad writes in his book "Tareekh-Pakistan (Qadeem Daur), First Edition, that

"It is unanimously acknowledged that the native land of Indo Aryan tribes were Khwarzam. These people had entered Pakistan via Iran. Khwarzam is that region of Central Asia that is called Uzbekistan."

Although scholars do not approve of any Aryan race now, but Kosambi describes that among the Aryans coming to the sub-continent, there was at least one group who liked to be called Aryans by race. (pp 410-411).

Some people believe that Shins are Quresh and weave the narrations of connecting their genealogy with Arabs. These stories are commonly heard. It is mainly a result of the religious sentiments and affiliations and history has no evidence for it. Dr. Habib Gul says,  “a claim to Arab decent is however, very common among many section of the inhabitants of Kohistan, but seems to rest on no real foundation”.

Many races and linguistic affiliates have been migrating to the Northern Pakistan in different times. The Tibetans, Parthians, Chinese, Tooranis Sethian, Salka and the Huns are included among them. Their influences and traces are coming to knowledge through discoveries. But it is hard to trace their genealogical heirs among the current people, tribes or groups and also that the Shins or the YushkuNs possibly have any affiliations with them. From among the sub-branches of some tribes living in this area, those names are found that coincide in history books and discoveries, such as Gorei, Khoje, Mugla, Khuka, shatie and Gorie, etc. But no material is available to make fasten these connections. One riddle is also that what is the reason that ShiN, YashkuN and KamiN end at the same sound (retroflex R). Is it not a reason if they had some sort of uniform kinship relations. Are the three of them three green branches of the same race. Certainly there is a need to think and search for an answer to this question.