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Chitrali Bazaar attracts locals for winter wear despite slump

Chitrali Bazaar attracts locals for winter wear despite slump

PESHAWAR: Islamabad Street alias Chitrali Bazaar in Peshawar city still attracts local visitors towards its hand-made winter products despite deep slump in the market.

Its round the year season, has been reduced to only two months -- November and December over the last few years. The once thriving business of Chitrali Patti (Chitrali cloth piece) which would be transformed into various hand-made items, has now undergone drastic changes.

“Overbilling and excessive power loadshedding have badly affected business of Chitrali hand-made products. Not a single foreign visitor showed during the last two decades. About 90 per cent Chitrali artisans live in the city with their families,” Shafiullah, an artisan at Chitrali Bazaar, told this scribe.

He said that in summer season, the bazaar wore a deserted look as visitors trickled and also climate change contributed to the slump market trend.

According to shopkeepers and artisans, the hand-made products of the original Chitrali Patti containing pure wool are available in the market but with skyrocketing prices these are no more affordable for low income people.

Sept up way back in 1943, Islamabad Street gradually adopted the name of Chitrali Bazaar due to craftsmen, mostly from Chitral. The artisans settled down around the said street and popularised the Chitrali Patti products.

In the British era, the place used to be a red light area where British officers and local elites used to enjoy performances of dancers and singers but later it was renamed as Islamabad and four small mosques were built on its four corners which still existed.

Abdur Razaq, chief of Association of Islamabad Bazaar Traders, told this scribe that around 630 shops existed there where about 60,000 people were affiliated with Chitrali products business.

He said that around 1,800 artisans, majority of them being from Chitral, crafted different kinds of winter wears from Chitrali Patti. He said that people in winter liked to buy coat, cap and waistcoat made up of original Chitrali Patti.

The trader said that a coat crafted in Chitrali Patti was available for Rs12,000 to Rs15,000 and a waistcoat could be bought for Rs4,500 to Rs6,000 while a Chitrali Pakol (cap) would sell at Rs1,000, to Rs1,200 in the market.

He said that an embroidered frock for women was being sold out more than the gents’ long coat. “We have lost a good market to militancy in Waristan both North and South and other tribal agencies in general where Chitrali outfits were an integral part of people’s dress culture,” said Mr Razaq.

A gent’s chuddar (shawl) of pure wool with colourful mosaic could be available for Rs3,000 to Rs6,000 depending on the quality.

Rahm Jan, a shopkeeper at Chitrali Bazaar, said that unfortunately a considerable number of skilled Chitralis had already left the bazaar owing to trade crash in the market. They moved to other parts of the country while a few of them even settled down in the Middle Eastern countries. He said that Afghanistan was also once the booming market of Chitrali hand-made wears but they lost it too as Afghan traders stopped purchasing their goods.

Mr Razaq said that condition of Chitrali goods was not favourable, however, he hoped that it would continue making famous Chitrali wears and would keep up cultural identity.

“Peace, official patronage and resilience of local residents will hopefully help us to keep walking on the thorny path despite hardships and market nose-dive,” said the trader.

Published in Dawn November 21st, 2016

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