Misgar is an agricultural community located in the north western region of Gojal, Tehsil and District Hunza, Northern Areas, Pakistan.
The community is comprised of about 180 households situated about 7 km by one lane unsurfaced road to the northwest of the Karakoram Highway and 14km from Sost. Misgaris belong to the Burushaski speaking cultural grouping of people and to the Ismaili sect of the Shia school of Islamic teaching.
Misgar territory includes three main rivers, Kilik, Mintaka and Dilsung, all of which extend to international borders with China, and Afghanistan. The mountain ranges of Misgar are spurs of the Central Karakoram stretching east toward the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan. Khunjerab National Park and the Karakoram Highway, the main road to China, lie further to the east.
From a tourism point of view Misgar is a particularly interesting destination. Until 1999 foreign travellers were unable to visit Misgar and the valleys are strongly connected with the history of trade and travel along the Silk Road. Misgar was also a key military and civil communications outpost during the British time, a period that is represented today in Misgar the Post and Telegraph Office and Kalam Darchi (KD) Fort. These fine buildings, along with others of the period, contribute to Misgar’s rich historic, natural and cultural heritage.
This is an unusual set of circumstances because the opportunity to explore the last “trekkable” sections of two historic trade routes, to follow in the footsteps of some of Asia’s great travellers and trace the route of the Misgar mail runners is unique in Pakistan and perhaps South Asia. In addition Misgar remains well connected with Hunza culture and traditions and also provides direct and easy access to stunning scenery, a number of unclimbed 6000-plus metre peaks, easy sub-6000 metre passes and good wildlife watching opportunities.
Misgar village is well positioned to gain positively from tourism However the community must plan well if it is to avoid the adverse effects of tourism This project is the first stage of a community initiative to plan appropriate tourism developments for Misgar.
According to local historians the present era of Misgar history began in 1844 when twenty three men from Hunza went up to Mintaka to secure the territory leading to Whakhan and the Chinese Taghdumbash Pamir on behalf of the Mir of Hunza. At that time the Kilik and Mintaka valleys were periodically occupied by Kirgiz shepherds from Whakhan and this practice was at odds with the Mir of Hunza’s interests.
Two hundred years is a relatively short historic record for a region with a back door that opened directly onto the ancient Silk Route between Kashgar and Kabul. Certainly this is reasonable grounds to speculate that the low, snow free Mintaka and Kilik passes would have a history beyond that known to the people of Misgar.
The best place to find this information is in a book titled History q’the Northern A mzs q’ Pakistan by Dr A.H Dani‘. Dr Dani and his co-researchers spent five years assembling a comprehensive treatise on the history and ethnography of the Northern Areas, research that traced the civilisations, migrations, trade and conflicts of the region back to the earliest times. From these researches it is evident that Mintaka and Kilik Passes were known and used over a very long period of history by traders, invaders and other travellers.
Evidence of these early times can be seen in the rock inscriptions, drawings and Buddha images found along the Hunza and Indus valleys and in the megalithic stone circles located in the valleys of the Ghiza river catchment leading from Whakan passes to the Indus. There are also oral histories and early written records concerning the experiences and hardships that travellers encountered while enroute from central Asia to India. A succession of Chinese monks, including Fa Hien, Sung- Yun and others, made their way over the Whakan passes to ancient Ghandhara (Swat) to receive the Buddhist scriptures and eventually to transport them back to China.
Of particular interest in regard to Misgar is an inscription in Chinese characters found on the “Sacred rock of Hunza” dated around AD450 naming Gu Wei-Long of the Wei Dynasty as Chinese envoy. From this record it is possible to surmise that the people who occupied the region now known as Hunza had formal dealings with the Chinese administrators of the land north of the Karakoram passes. In fact Hunza (Misgar) territorial claims over the Chinese Taghdumbash Pamir beyond Mintaka Pass were only given up in 1963 when Pakistan and China signed a treaty defining the boundary and expunging each others claims to territory on either side of the new international border.
In the 19″ Century the British explorers Burnes and Younghusband traversed the region on secretive missions for British Army intelligence, testing the extent of Russia’s expansionist designs and mapping the routes into Central Asia. Younghusband actually crossed Mintaka pass enroute to Gilgit after being expelled from the Russian Pamir by Gombtshovesky; Younghusband’s journal records his travels in Mintaka and Hunza.
Shortly afterwards in 1892 under the leadership of Col Algernon Durand the British invaded Hunza, ostensibly to curb the activities of Mir Safdar Ali Khan of Hunza and thwart his overtures to the Russians although the actual reasons for the war are not clear. The Mir fled to China over Kilik pass with a large group of followers, the account of the British campaign in Hunza and the pursuit or Mir Safdar Ali Khan to Misgar is recounted in the book %km Thm Empire Mw by E. F. Knight’.
During the British period of history in India. Misgar was an important way point between Delhi, Shrinigar and Kashgar as well as a strategic military post. The Mintaka and Kilik Pass routes led directly from Misgar in Upper Hunza to Tashkorgan in the Chinese Pamir and then to Kashgar. Runners carried mail and dispatches from the Post and Telegraph Office at Misgar over Mintaka to Tashkorgan and vice versa.
In more recent times Misgar was the site where the China/Pakistan Boundary, commission signed the treaty of 1963 that opened the way for a “road” to be constructed ‘ from Misgar over Mintaka Pass to Pirali in China and for regular trade to commence between China and Pakistan.