When Wazir Zada, who only 25 years ago was herding goats in his village in Kalash, Chitral, became a member of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly in 2018, he stood out owing to his ‘Chitrali cap’ and its prominent peacock feather. No one really knew this young lawmaker, nor could they have forseen that he would later become the chief minister’s special assistant on minorities’ affairs, with the status of a minister.

Born in Chitral in 1984 in the Kalash tribe — said to be the smallest and oldest ethnic and religious minority of Pakistan — he completed his primary and middle education from his village, after which he completed his matriculation exams from Chitral city. Despite high marks in his exams, he could not get admitted in Islamia College Peshawar and thus completed his intermediate from Government Degree College, Nowshera. Later, in 2006, he completed his Master’s degree from University of Peshawar.

Recalling his quest for education, Wazir Zada shared that even when he used to herd goats as a young boy, he would carry at least two books so as to read in whatever spare time the exercise offered.

“When we used to visit my father at his workplace, who was a Levies (security) official posted at the District Commissioner’s office, I would see how all the staff would stand up and salute the DC whenever he would enter or exit his office,” remembered Wazir Zada, adding that his father would never miss the opportunity to tell him that he could command the same respect and authority if he only excels in his studies.

Expressing his feeling of accomplishment when he recently visited his hometown after having become a minister, and how the DC received him in his office with ‘full protocol’, Wazir Zada asserted his belief that “you can achieve anything in life if you work hard for it”. However, he added that even though he is considered a ‘big shot’ in his hometown, he ensures not to exude a sense of superiority when dealing with the locals and remembers his roots.

Narrating his political journey, Wazir Zada stated that prior to the 2008 elections, he met the leaderships of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam and PPP-Sherpao seeking a minorities seat for the provincial assembly but it did not materialise. “When [Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief and now prime minister] Imran Khan visited Chitral in 2011, I met him and pleaded that an educated native of Kalash should be given the party’s nomination, as it would send the right message to the world,” he shared.

As a result, Wazir Zada made it to the list of the party’s nominees for the minorities’ seats, but being at number four he could not make it to the assembly. Not one to give up, Wazir Zada continued his lobbying efforts, during which he met then chief minister Pervez Khattak and got approved development funds worth Rs3.6 million for his hometown. All his efforts landed Wazir Zada at the second spot on the list prior to the 2018 polls.

Having won the party’s nomination, Wazir Zada finally entered the KP Assembly and in January this year became a special assistant to the chief minister.

“Since day one, I have been striving to eradicate the false global image that Pakistan is unsafe for minorities,” he said, adding that his top priority is to improve the living standards of his community — the thousands-year-old Kalash tribe. Similarly, he is not lost to the miseries of the province’s other minorities, saying that he wants to ensure better housing facilities for minorities across the province for which he got funds approved in the last budget.

Realising the importance of education, Wazir Zada’s focus is on improvement of schools’ conditions and easing access to them, especially for marginalised communities of the province so they may be able to achieve their true potential, as he did.

October 6, 2020

How a goat herder became KP minorities’ minister

When Wazir Zada, who only 25 years ago was herding goats in […]