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What alternatives as a mullah or local minor mufti issues a “fatwa”?

In the book “Three cups of tea“, Greg Mortenson had this mission of building primary schools for girls in North Pakistan through the Central Asia Institute that Dr. Jean Hoerni established the foundation and allocated one million dollars to pursue its long-term mission.

After Greg managed to construct the first school in the village of Korphe in the province of Baltistan, many local and minor mullahs in the neighboring towns tried to through a fatwa at Greg (to force Greg from never to set foot again in these provinces) on the ground that a non-Moslem foreigners is not allowed to build schools for girls.

The real reason behind these fatwas was to blackmail the Institution to pay off for every school being constructed.

What alternatives do foreign NGO and for non-profit organizations can opt for when a mullah or local minor mufti issues a “fatwa”?

In the beginning, the team of Pakistanis aiding in the projects, and particularly the professional accountant Ghulam Parvis, tried to circumvent this hardship by communicating with the various local nurmadhar (chief) of villages and their religious clerics so that they appease the concerned mullah.

The next step was to get the highest cleric in the province to get involved.

The third step was to ask the council of ayatollahs in Qom (Iran) to deliver their opinion on the issue.

The fourth phase, and the most efficient in the long-term, is confront the fatwa with a counter appeal to the religious legal court (based on the Shari3a) to decide on the fatwa. This venue takes at least more than 3 years to come to bring an answer, but this alternative forces the contending mullah to get overwhelmed with frequent demands of proofs and documentation and personal presence to the court.

For example, Greg contacted the highest cleric Sayed Abbas (a graduate from the Shiaa religious university of Najaf in Iraq) and satisfied many urgent demands of this clerics, like bringing potable water to villages suffering from high infantile death rate due to drinking bad water, and caring for refugee camps for Pakistani people fleeing from the borders with India during the nasty Kashmir conflict.

Sayed Abbas also asked that Qom intervene and the opinion arrived in a red velvet box, stating that Qom is in favor of the work Greg is conducting, since Islam encourage benevolent Zakat for the poor and the less favored people…

This opinion discouraged future bad mullahs, but the current fatwas were opposed in religious legal court.

Note 1: Greg discovered that the male graduates left their villages to larger towns and cities, but the girl graduates returned to their village after finishing their professional education. Consequently, the institute redirected the mission to give priority to girls in the constructed schools. With this focus, the rate of girls in schools increased by 10% every year.

Note 2: Most of the graduate girls preferred to pursue medical studies, like Jahan, Tahira, and Shakeela… Women frequently died in giving birth and the infantile mortality rate was pretty steep in these mountainous regions, where families lived inside a single room for over 6 months…

Note 3: If interested of the story from the start https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2012/12/12/how-three-cups-of-tea-generated-80-schools-for-little-girls-in-north-pakistan/

“Would you consider Greg to be appointed director of a foundation?“: The Central Asia Institute

In 1994, Greg Mortenson had sent over 540 letters to famous people asking donation for his mission of building a primary school for girls in the village of Korphe in the province of Balistan in North Pakistan. All that effort didn’t generate any money.

Greg was invited by his mother, principal in a school, to give a presentation of his mission and the kids launched a campaign “penny for a school” which saved about $400 in pennies.

Tom Vaughan, a physician of the lungs and a mountain climber, wrote an article of Greg Mortenson’s mission  in the American Himalaya Foundation (AHF) that appeared in the national bulletin.

Dr. Jean Hoerni, a scientist, investor and a mountain climber responded and sent Greg a check of $12,000.

In the phone conversation, Hoerni said:

“Say, if I extend you the necessary fund for your school, are you going to elope and spend the money in Mexico on girls and drugs?”

As Greg was in the process of giving details of the estimation of an engineer in Skardu (Capital of Baltistan) Hoerni cut him off saying:” How much?” and then “Is that all? Are you pulling my legs? What’s your address?”

That was a good question: Greg was sleeping in his car, the Bamba, inherited from his dad who died at the age of 49.

It took Greg 3 years to build the first school.

The first year, he purchased all the building materials from Rawalpindi and hired a Bedford truck (from England colonial period) to the city of Skardu. “Why didn’t you buy all these materials from Skardu, instead of taking all that trouble, thousand of miles away?” and that was the first lesson that Greg learned to rely on the local people and ask for their input…

Hearing of the arrival of building materials, many village chiefs wanted to have the school constructed in their villages, and they carried Greg to their villages and threw lavish banquets in his honor…

Mind you that the only time to build anything before the cold season is during the 3 months of summer time.

The second year, the Nurmadhar (chief) of Korphe Haji Ali announced that the village decided to construct a bridge over the Braldu before they can contemplate building the school.

Thus, Greg asked Hoerni for the necessary fund to first build the bridge. And the bridge made it possible for the women to cross to the other side of the river and visit with families and return the same day on Fridays.

Before the bridge, it was very dangerous to cross by using ropes mechanism

The disadvantage was that the mullah of a larger town of Askole crossed the bridge with a bunch of hooligan demanding retribution for allowing an “infidel Ingrezi” (English) to build a school for girls. The mullah asked for 12 bulls, or half what the village had and the most prized animal, cared by the first male son in the family.

Haji Ali delivered the 12 beasts and said to the mullah: “This school will be built whether you like it or not” and turned his back. Haji Ali later looked very happy and said: “The beast will be devoured very soon, but the school will stay for generation to come…”

During his 8-month stay in the San Francisco Bay area, Greg was invited to attend a formal meeting of mount climber members in the Fairmont Hotal. Edmund Hillary was to speak, and Hillary was Greg’s hero for climbing first Mount Everest.

Greg was penniless, had sold his car and everything to afford a plane ticket to Pakistan. Jean Hoerni saw Greg and asked him to approach the bar. Hoerni allocated $20,000 for Greg’s personal expenses. And that was not all: He met his future wife Tara Bishop. They got married within 6 days.

The third year Greg supervised closely the building of the school and drove the inhabitants crazy with his zeal. Nurmadhar Haji Ali took Greg on a walking trip, to a higher altitude, and said:

“Dr. Greg Sahib. See these mountains? They have been around for million of years, and we have been around for centuries without a school. You are driving the people in circles. They can do the job and within their own timetable…Stop behaving according to your custom…” And he took away the measuring and building instruments from Greg and locked them up in a special drawer.

Jean Hoerni found out that he has an incurable cancer and didn’t have not much time to live, and wanted a picture of the school, badly.

Hoerni had invited Greg to his home in Seattle and asked him: “Would you consider Greg to be appointed director of a foundation? You need to focus all your energy and time on your mission”. And The Central Asia Institute was founded and Greg appointed professionals in its board of directors.

Greg advanced the schedule of his yearly trip to north Pakistan in order to make good on his promise and brought back pictures of the school, the kids, the inhabitants of Korphe.

In the hospital, Hoerni demanded a hammer to nail the picture on the wall facing his bed. He called one friend in Switzerland and said: “I build a school in Baltistan. What did you accomplish in the last 50 years?”

Before his death, Hoerni had allocated one million dollar to the foundation so that Greg may resume his mission, full speed and build many more schools for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In the fourth year, Greg learned that the most efficient way to carry on the job is to let the village chiefs meet and decide for the priority of the location of schools and other more pressing realizations, such as bringing potable water, generating electricity, hiring more teachers, expanding functional smaller schools…

For example, the women in Korphe, represented by Sakina and Hawa, asked for a center so that the women can meet during the winter months, away from the men and closed houses… Greg purchased 4 traditional sewing machines and installed them in an extension to the house of the nurmadhar Haji Ali. This center permitted the generation of extra money to the community and kind of financial independence for the women.

Greg had assembled a team, around a dozen, of trusted “professionals” from all ethnicity and religious sects in Pakistan to study the location and details of future projects during his absence in the US, and saved his time (4 months in late spring and summer) driving to the various construction sites and bringing in the necessary materials and encouraging the smooth functioning of the work…

In the first meeting of the team in Skardu, the members suggested three locations for schools to select one of them for the year. And Greg said:”We can build all three schools”.

And the schools were finished in record time of 12 weeks at less than $12,000 each. It cost $24,000 for the Pakistan government and $36,000 to international organization to build the same kinds of schools.

Greg travelled to Peshawar, stronghold of the Taliban in west Pakistan, in order to build a school for the thousands of refugee kids. Hajji Ali had warned Greg: “When travelling make sure to have a nurmadhar accompanying you and that you had drunk 3 cups of tea at the nurmadhar house…”

Greg failed to stick to this precept and was kidnapped and spent 8 days and nights in a dark room, deep in the Waziristan provinces.  The djerga (elders of villages) met after assembling pieces of intelligence on Greg and liberated Greg. They gave Greg handful of roupies to build more schools that amounted to $400, a large sum.

This event was before 2001 and before the US carpet bombed Afghanistan and alienated the civilians and became enemies, instead of powerful friends.

So far, the Central Asia Institute has constructed over a hundred schools and diverse projects in these remote poorer counties

Note 1: Edmund Hillary had climbed Mount Everest in 1953 with the Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. Hillary received easy donations to build schools in Nepal, particularly in the Valley of Khumbu. Hillary had written “Schoolhouse in the Clouds”. It is to be noted that Norgay was the first to reach Everest, but Hillary got all the honor and recognition.

Note 2: Dr. Jean Hoerni is a Swiss who graduated from Cambridge and immigrated to the USA and launched many companies, half of them became multinationals such as Fairchild Semi-Conductors, Teledyne, and Intel.

He had quit the William Shockley laboratory and invented the integrated circuits. He published many scientific articles and his contribution to building the first school for girls in the Baltistan province generated hundred more schools.

Note 3: The purpose of this post is to shed light on this commendable economic culture of setting up foundations for the long-term once a dedicated person demonstrates resilience and determination on carrying on a worthy mission

Note 4: Story is from the book “Three Cups of Teas

“Doctor Sahib! Towers in the village of New York in your country were attacked. Uzum mofsar (I am sorry)” said Faisal Baig

Two weeks before the attack on the Twin Towers in September 2001, Greg Mortenson was in north Pakistan,  building one more of the many primary schools for girls under the supervision of his Central Asia Institute, a foundation that Jean Hoerni financed and appointed Greg as director..

Greg started his mission in 1994 and was getting very familiar with the Karakoram and Hindu Kush regions, after his failed assault on K2 in 1993.

Greg, Apo and Hussein (the driver) were driving in the Shigar Valley near the town of Gulapor. This district was predominantly of Balti ethnics and of the Chiaa sect. And yet, they were observing a brand new huge and long edifice (200 meter-long and enclosed within a 6-meter wall).

Apo said: “This is a madrassa” (one of the hundreds of religious schools that the wahhabi Saudi Arabia absolute monarchy was investing billion to build in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt… Anywhere the Moslem Sunni sect was predominant, and also erecting mosques and hiring Wahhabi religious clerics to preach and run the mosques and religious schools…

Mortenson said: “Are you sure Apo that it is not a military base? You would expect these kind of schools to be mushrooming in the Waziristan region” (Where the Afghan Taliban had their bases and headquarters in western Pakistan)

Apo tried to explain that these religious schools are so large because thousands of poor male kids attend religious indoctrination: They are crowded as bees…

The most promising students are dispatched to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait for further “education and formation” during 10 years and then sent back to teach, marry 4 wives, procreate and increase the number of wahhabis…

Mind you that after the Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, the USA totally forgot Afghanistan: The US administrations were busy handling the situation after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union States, particularly in eastern Europe, and the mass genocides that ensued in Yugoslavia…

For over a decade, the extremist and obscurantist Taliban (financed and supported by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan secret services) occupied Afghanistan, except the north-eastern province of the Panjshir and the Wakhan Corridor, under the Tajik warlord Massoud.

The El Qaeda of Ussama bin Laden was firmly entrenched in Afghanistan and in the western provinces of Pakistan, and enjoying the full support of Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, a graduate from a “madrassa” in Pakistan.

In early September 2001, a new wahhabi mosque was finished in the center of the city of Skardu, the capital of the Balistan province in north-east Pakistan.

On Sept. 9, Mortenson was heading toward the town of Zuudkhan in north-west Pakistan in order to inaugurate 3 projects: A water purification, a small hydroelectric generator, and a dispensary.  The team spent the night at the village of Sost and he received the news that the Afghan Tajik warlord Ahmad Shah Massoud was assassinated by al Qaeda recruits. The executioners were two female Algerian jihadist who claimed to beBegian film makers. The instrument for the killing was a camera loaded with explosives.

Massoud was at the military base of Khvajeh Ba Odin, an hour flight by helicopter to Sost.

Ussama bin Laden figured out that if Massoud is eliminated and the Sept. 11 attack a success, then there will be no serious opponents in Afghanistan to support the US troops…

The people in the region were apprehensive and expected a soon Taliban attack and were looking toward the Afghan borders.

Two days later, 19 kamikazes, of mostly Saudi Arabia, launched their commercial line attacks on 4 targets on US soil.

This time around, the US remembered the plight of the Afghan people by launching 150 cruise missiles. Each cruise missile cost $900,000, enough to build hundred schools in Afghanistan and pay for the teachers for an entire year.

Mind you that a teacher cost $20 per month in Afghanistan at that time!

Note 1: In December 2000, the daily Ain al Yaqeen (Eye of Certainty) had disclosed that the foundation Al-Haramain, one of 4 such organizations for proselytizing the wahhabi sect, had constructed 1,100 mosques, madrassa, and Islamic centers, just in Pakistan and was paying the salary  of 3,000 instructors and employees.

In the same decade, the most active of these  4 organizations, The international Islamic Rescue Organization (IIRO) had built 1,800 mosques, and budgeted $45 million for the teaching of Islam, and hired 6,000 “educators”, and these money were mostly invested in Pakistan… The IIRO was directly funding and supporting Taliban and Al Qaeda

Note 2: The Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid of Lahore, and the most eminent specialist in extremist Moslem movements, estimated in “The Shadow of the Talibans” that about 80,000 students from various madrassas have joined Taliban, and that 20% of the students undergo military training for the Jihad purpose against the “infidels”

Note 3: The World Bank study in 2001 revealed that 20,000 madrassas were dispensing a fundamentalist Islamic program to 2 million Pakistani Students

Karakoram and Hindu Kush (north Pakistan): World concentrated glaciers and tallest Peaks

Bordering China, Kashmir, Afghanistan and the central Asian countries are the regions of the most concentrated highest peaks and glaciers and the sources of the Braldu, Shyok, and Indus River (forking westward toward Pakistan and eastward toward India).

Have heard of Karakoram and Hindu Kush regions in North Pakistan and the Baltistan district (with capital Skardu) near the Kashmir borders?

Have you heard of the K2 Peak, the second highest at 8,611 m?

From left and going clockwise you can see on the map the Tower of Muztagh (7,273 m), Broad Peak (8,047 m), Gasherbrum I (8,068 m), Gasherbrum II (8,035 m), Masherbrum (7,821 m), Nanga Parbat (8, 1236 m), Rakaposhi (7,788 m), Ogre (7,285)….

Have you heard of the glaciers Hispar, Biafo, Baltoro, Concordia, Godwin-Austin, Sachsen (where the Pakistani and Indian armies shell one another for the Kashmir region)…?

You find the vast and highest valleys of Shigar, Hushe, Hunzu, Charpursan

The late photographer Galen Rowell (died in an aviation accident in 2002) spent decades of his life to filming this region evanescent beauty.

The road leading to Balistan follow the gorges of the powerful Indus River: There is no other alternative route that the Indus failed to dig in this mountainous region. Most of the deaths in Pakistan are from road accidents, of treacherous side roads off the main highway to China.

The biologist George Schaller trekked the Karakoram in 1973 studying the whereabouts of the Blue Sheep (bhoral) or ibex and wrote in “Stones of Silence“:

My trekking trips were marked by difficulty and deception. But the mountains are like appetite  They did deeper. My hunger for the Karakoram grew by the days…”

The companion of Schaller, Peter Matthiessen wrote the master piece “The Snow Leopard

This vast region is where the Baltis ethnic people dwell.

According to the book “Three cups of tea“, the Baltis are originally from Tibet. They emigrated 6 century ago and adopted the Chiaa Moslem sect. They are mostly short, robust, and most adapted to high altitudes like the Sherpas of the Himalaya mountain chains (Nepal) and the Indians of the Andes chain in South America.

In 1958, the Italian Fosco Maraini who participated in the Gasherbrum 4 expedition  expanded at length on this ethnic group:

“They constantly plot, complain, and frustrate you to the highest level. They emanate an air of bandits, but they have great qualities: They are honest, cheerful, loyal, and have a great resistance to fatigue. You see skinny people carrying 40 kilos through treacherous paths with the ease of people carrying nothing…”

Note 1: After Sept.11, 2001, Greg Mortenson was back in Pakistan to build one of his 80 primary schools for girls in the Karakoram region. The CIA wanted information on the people of this region and the names and addresses of the people on the payroll in Pakistan of the Central Asia Institutes. Greg refused because he will be a dead man if he did, and his mission will be tainted.

The 4 CIA men in grey 4-pieces suits wanted to know the religious sects of the communities (tribes) in North Pakistan. You have the Khowars, Kohistanis, Shinas, Torwalis, Kalamis… The Kalash is an animist tribe. The CIA felt discouraged: The further they diverted from general categories (Sunni, Chiaa..) the more impossible it became to get a good clean-cut understanding

Note 2. Have you heard of the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan?

One day, Greg Mortenson was close to the borders with North Afghanistan in the town of Zuudkan when a group of Kirghiz horsemen crossed the pass of Irshad to meet with him: They got wind of Doctor Greg’s presence who build schools for girls and wanted him to visit the Wakhan Corridor.

The Wakhan Corridor is this long stretch of land, a tongue, sandwiched between Tajikistan, Pakistan, and China, where opium is trafficked and distributed to Russia and China via the passes of Irshad and Khundjerab. This is an extension of the Panjshir Valley region in north-east Afghanistan that the Taliban could not enter. The only access was through the Salang tunnel, which warlord Massoud detonated as the Taliban tried to expand northward.

Note 3: A few words in the Baltis language, an archaic Tibetan version:

Gangs-zhing: glacier

Rdo-rut: avalanche

Brad-lep: Flat rock

Kurba: small round rocks used to cook bread on

Zindabad: wonderful

Mar: rancid butter of yak milk

Gorak: Vulture

Biango: roasted chicken

Lassi: chapati

Urdwa: woolen bonnet ornated with pearls, shells, and ancient money pieces

Zamba: rope bridge in yak hair

Topi: cap in mutton wool

Nurmadhar: village chief

Balti: Central space in a house

Tchizaley? What are you doing here?

Naswar: Green tobacco for chewing

Shalval Kamiz: loose pant and long shirt (Sherwal/Qamis in Arabic)

How “Three cups of tea” generated 80 schools for little girls?

Greg Mortenson was readying on September 1993 to give the final assault to climb the second highest peak of K2 in the Baltistan district in the Karakoram region (north-east of Pakistan). The team of 10 alpinists (mount climbers) has been preparing for months for that adventure. Mortenson was to be the physician of the team: He was a graduate student in chemistry and a certified nurse and worked in the emergency sections of hospitals in the San Francisco Bay area.

Instead of taking the traditional path on the south-east opening of the team of Count Abruzzi 7 decades ago, the team of Mortenson decided to try the new path that the Japanese Eiho Otani and the Pakistani Nazir Sabir had opened 12 years ago.

Mortenson, a football player, 193 cm tall and weighting over 200 pounds, was naturally selected to be the beast of burden for carrying supplies, equipment and … to the various bases during the climb. Scot Darsney was assisting him.

The chiefs of the expedition were the veteran Daniel Mazur, Jonathan Pratt, and Etienne Fine.

After 70 days of ascent, Greg and Scott reached the base. They were arriving from a supply mission that lasted 96 hours and were about to hit the sac when they saw the distress emergency light signal on the last base (last 600 meters to climb). Etienne Fine was in bad shape with pulmonary edema due to altitude.

The two climbers tried to find volunteers from the different climbing teams on base, and ended up doing the climb on their own. Mazur and Pratt were descending from Camp 4 at 7,600 altitude and caring for Etienne.

Over 72 hours later, the Pakistani army commanded that the team carry Etienne to a lower base for the evacuation by helicopter. By the time Etienne was evacuated, Greg and Scott had used up the last of their energy and were unable to rejoin Mazur and Pratt for the final assault.

Mazur and Pratt finally made it a week later and announced their victory.

On Sept. 2, 1993, Greg and Scott were en route for yet another supply mission when Greg lost track of Scott and his helper Mouzafer Ali. All the important supplies and warm cloths were carried by Ali.

Mortenson was lost, alone and in environment not familiar to him. The next day, by hazard, Mouzafer found Greg and immediately made him drink 3 hot cups of the rancid tea with Yak butter, the local paiyu tchai.

Mouzafer Ali was a Balti who saved Greg from certain death as he got lost in the Baltoro glacier.

Mortenson again lost track of Mouzafer and ended up in the village of Korphe instead of Askole where Ali was waiting for him.

How these 3 cups of tea and the way the Nurmadhar (chief) of Korphe, Hajji Ali, treated Greg and cared for him for many weeks until Mortenson was in shape to resume his life is the story that generated over 80 schools in North Pakistan by the year 2006, and increasing steadily, to cover the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan.

As Greg was recuperating his energy in Korphe, he asked Hajji Ali to show him the village school: 82 kids and only 4 girls were studying in the open freezing air, writing on the sand, shoeless, and learning on their own: An instructor shows up twice a week to teach these kids because the regional government could not afford another single dollar per day for a second teacher… While Pakistan was pouring its wealth on the Siachen glacier to pound the Indian army for part of Kashmir.

Greg laid his hands on Hajii Ali shoulders and promised that he will build a school in Korphe…

How Mortenson started his adventure of collecting funds and establishing the Central Asia Institute is another story… to follow.

Note: Journalist David Olivier Relin wrote the book “Three cups of Tea” after recording Mortenson diaries, conversations, and pictures and witnesses


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