Gojal is a network of small and large valleys sharing borders with Hunza in the South, China in the North and East and Afghanistan in the North West. Shishkat is the first village of Gojal. Except for the Shimshal, Misgar and Chipursan valleys, all villages of Gojal can be seen while travelling on the Karakuram Highway.
People have migrated into Gojal from Wakhan, parts of China (like Ruskum) and Hunza valley. The current demographic trends of the region are, somehow, reflected in in the table provided below.
Historically the people were shepherd and/or small scale farmers. But with the passage of time services industry has taken the lead and now most of the people are employed in the government and non-governmental organizations. A significant number of the locals is also engaged in trade.
Literacy rates are, unusually, very high in the entire region. The BBC reported that Passu, a small hamlet on the KKH, had hundred percent literacy rate in 1998. Geographically remote valleys like Chipursan (bordering with Wakhan, Afghanistan) and Shimshal (bordering China) have schools for the children.
It is commonly believed that the first settler in Avgarch valley was the legendary Baba Sufi who came from Afghanistan travelling along the Amu Daria (or Oxus) River. He is said to first have settled in Sost, but soon moved to the more secluded and secure Boiber Valley where he made Avgarch his permanent home. As the population grew, people spread out and moved down to Galapan, Gircha, Sartiz, Jamalabad, Morkhun, Nazimabad and Sost, all of which comprise the Avgarch valley. The local people affiliates an old house in Sost with the Raja of Gilgit Thra Khan (1310) which was preserved by AKCSP. If this old house is really of the time of Raja Thra Khan then this house is older than that of the creation of Hunza state and is older than Altit and Baltit forts.
Chapursan’s history is marked by a remarkable amount of local myths and legends. The valley is said to be resettled many time due to floods. The valley now comprised different villages from Yarzrich to Zood Khun. Raminj is a Burusho village while others are Wakhies. The valley is populated by the migrants from Wakhan and people who recently migrated from Gulmit, Passu, Ghulkin and Hussaini.
Passu was first inhibited by "Quli" from Wakhan. According to local elders, the old Passu was once home to some 300 households. Due to Shimshal flood and continuous erosion from river side the old Passu settlement destroyed forcing the population to leave and to migrate back to their places of origin in Central Asia. Later, Passu was resettled by a man named Quli, who is today generally recognized as the ancestor of the majority of Passu’s population. Due to this reference the people of Passu is still called Quili kuts. People from Quli kuts (tribe) is also inhibited in Karimabad, Murtazaabad and many other villages in Central Hunza. The Quli kuts in Central Hunza later adopted the Burushu way of life and now speak Burushaski language.
According to oral traditions, like Passu, Hussaini village has been settled twice. It is said that the first people who settled in Hussaini were called Ghosanos. According to this theory Hussaini is modified from Ghusani. The origin of the Ghosano is not exactly known, however, some elders narrate that these people were the descendants of the Warshighoom state, called Mehtarjaos (the princes but not legitimate to share in the governance). It is said that these people were having very close relations with the people of neighboring village Passu and celebrating major events collectively. The elders narrate that during such an event in Hussaini people from both villages started fighting. Most of Ghusanos were killed while some of them ran away downstream with the Hunza River. Raja of Gilgit arrested Sirang Momad and his son Sirang Qmut from Passu and gave shelter to Gusanos. The people from Ghosani left the village, and the ruler of Gilgit settled them some where around Gilgit. Thus the Ghusanos was dislocated from their land. It is said that a prince named Musofir ran away with his brother Majower from Ptukh Wakhan (presently in Afghanistan) due to defeat in tug of war for throne of the state. Their elder brother was crown prince. He was unhappy with his brothers due to his position. The younger brothers were always scared of the elder brother because he could kill them to save his throne. One day both of the brothers left the sate and Majower escaped to Ishkomen valley (Presently in the Ghizer district of the Northern Areas), and Musofir came to Hussaini and settled there.
Nothing is known about the earlier settlement in Gulmit village. It is also said that Gulmit was populated during the reign of Raja of Gilgit Mir Malik Thrakhani. It is said that Raja Mir Malik during the life of his father Su Malik settled in Gulmit and constructed a mosque which was known as Masjid Mir Malik. According to this theory it is said that when Hunza and Nagar Principalities were divided between Girghis and Maghlote (twin prince from Gilgit), at that time Mir Malik while coming back from Ishkook decided to settle down in Gulmit. It means that before that Gulmit was already inhibited. According to another theory it is said that during the reign of Ayasho II (1540s) 2 person Khawaja Arab and Rozdar from Nagar and a person Budul from Chaprot Nagar settled down in Gulmit. However, it is not true that all the main clans settled in Gulmit during same time. Different tribes migrated and settled in Gulmit during different time period. The distribution of land among different tribes can give real indications. Gulmit has the largest Wakhi population however, it is narrated that all the major clans in Gulmit migrated from Nagar, Ganish and Chaprot. It may not possible that within a short period of time these people adopted the Wakhi way of life and language under the influence of a minority Wakhi people settled in surrounding villages. Gulmit since olden times occupies an influential position as compare to surrounding villages in Gojal valley. It is therefore rationale to say that the people who for the first time settled in Gulmit were from Wakhi ethnic group whether they migrated from Chipursun border or from Ishkoman border. In Gulmit the descendants of Budul is called Budul kotor and Rozdor as Rozdor Kotor. The descendants of Khawaja Arab is divided in two sub tribes Chorshimbi Kutor and Bori Kutor while it is said that the descendants of another brother Mahmood perished due to mass killing of their family by Mir of Hunza. Later a person from Ishkomen settled in Gulmit whose tribe is now called "Hari Kutor". A Kirghiz from Riskeem also settled in Gulmit whose tribe is now called 'Mir Gul Kutor'.
It is said that a Burusho from Central Hunza Bu Singh was the first who with the permission of Mir of Hunza constructed the first irrigation channel in Ghulkin. The name is derived from two words of Wakhi dialect, 'Ghulk', meaning 'well' and 'kin', meaning 'whose'. It is said that Bu Singh married more than one time. One wife was from the Bakhthi Kutor tribe of Shimshal so the descendants are now called Bakhthi Kutor in Ghulkin. One wife was from Dhiramthing tribe of central Hunza whose descendants are called Dhiramthing. The 3rd wife was from Khoru Kuts tribe of Hunza so called Khuru kutz. It is also said that the foster brother of Ayasho I, Khawaja Ahmed was also allotted land in Ghulkin and his descendent is called Khuru Kutz. Another person Mamo Singh son of Mayor from Altit also settled in Ghulkin who is the ancestor of Nakhchira.
Khyber’s original name was Jakemal. The name Khyber stems probably from a comparison between the famous ‘undefeatable’ Khyber Fort from the tales of conqueror Hazarat Ali, and Jakemal’s location in a narrow gorge, surrounded by hazardous cliffs, making it in people’s minds equally ‘unconquerable’. Today Khyber is the home of both Wakhi and Burusho people. It is said that the earlier settler in Khyber was from Gulmit who later on left the area and occupied by other settlers.
The first settlers to the remote valley of Shimshal are estimated to have arrived some 400 - 500 years ago. At that time Shimshal was under the rule of the Mir of Hunza who sent criminals and society outcasts to Shimshal for punishment. According to oral traditions Mamu Singh was sent to the Wakhan to find a new ruler for Hunza due to murder of Girgiz (sahib Khan), by his brother Maghlot (Jamsheed Khan of Nagar). Mamu Singh did not find a ruler, but instead fell in love with a girl. After his return to Hunza he begged his father, the Wazir, to let him go back to the Wakhan and marry the girl, but his wish was refused. Finally he could not bear it any longer, returned to the Wakhan and married the girl. The young couple, as they could not go back to Hunza, settled in Avgarch. But the area was not safe and often raided by Kyrgyz, so Mamu Singh decided to look for a better place. One day, he climbed Qarun Pass and from the top looked down and saw a lush valley—Shimshal! Slowly, he and his wife moved up the valley and near today’s village of Shimshal, Mamu Singh discovered a spring, an old water channel and a small hut. People have lived here before. So Mamu Singh settled there. Later, the couple was blessed with a son, named Sher. Sher grew to become a strong young man. On a hunting trip, he discovered a flat grassy area—Pamir. However, Kyrgyz had settled in Pamir and claimed it as their land, but Sher saw it as his own property. Sher and the Kyrgyz decided to resolve the conflict with a polo game. Sher had no horse, so he had to play on a yak against the Kyrgyz on their fast horses. Nevertheless, Sher won the polo game, the intruders left and since then, the pastures beyond Shimshal Pass belong to the people of Shimshal.
Misgar marked the last outpost of the British empire and served as a busy dispatching and telegraph station and worked as last post between Hunza and China through Mintika and the Kilik Passes. Today, remnants of the Silk Route and the British occupation can still be seen, making Misgar a historically fascinating place. Today the Misgar’s population is Burusho. Until the mid nineteenth century Misgar, originally a Wakhi settlement was periodically inhabited and raided by Kyrgyz nomads coming from the Wakhan. The Mir of Hunza, having an interest to secure the territory leading to Afghanistan and China ordered a few of his man to drive out any intruders and to permanently settle in Misgar. According to oral traditions the present era of the valley’s history began in 1844 during the reign of Mir Ghazan Khan I when he forced twenty-three men from Hunza to went up to Mintaka to secure the territory and settle there. Long before that, however, the area was known to the travellers and traders of the Silk Route and later, during the British occupation Misgar became an important outpost. Mir Ghazan Khan-I also settled people from Central Hunza to Khudaabad during his reign.
The last settlements in Gojal occurred during the reign of Mir Nazim Khan (1892-1931). During this period The barren lands in Shishkat was settled with Burushu from Central Hunza in 1903. Shishkat is thus also called as Nazimabad I. During same period the barren lands in Upper Sost was also inhibited by the people from Central Hunza which is called Nazimabad II. Raminj was also settled down during his reign.
Gojal is a mountainous region forming the western part of the Karakoram and Eastern Pamir mountain range. This area also hosts the 65 km long Batura glacier the longest of Pakistan (after Siachin).
The region is home to lofty ice capped peaks, roaring rivers, lush green pastures and long glaciers.
Passu and Shimshal valleys have been two of the most visited regions of Gojal valley. Passu is famous because it is home of the Batura Glacier. Adding more to the beauty of Passu, standing at the Northern end of the village, is Mount Tupopdon. Inspired by its unique structural attributes tourists have promoted the peak by giving it new names. Some call it "Passu Cones" and others "Passu Cathedral". Mount Tupopdon is the most photographed peak of the region.
Disconnectivity from the modern world, until very recently, did not stop tourists. Every year thousands of mountain lovers visit Shimshal valley and see Mother Nature, exhibiting its colors, in a blend of Pamirian and Karakurumian aura. Shimshal, at one end, borders with the Peoples Republic of China and, on the other, is in close proximity of Kashmir (separated by Baltistan region). The Pamir pastures, lakes, Distgilsar Peak and other mystic peaks surround Shimshal valley, making it a potential dream treat for tourists from around the globe.
Chipursan valley is a network of small and large villages close to the border of Afghanistan and parts of China. Historians say that this was the earliest human settlement of the entire region. Legends testify these claim but the valley remains a mystry for researchers and nature lovers. Chipursan is home to the Irshad Pass that connects Gojal Valley with Afghanistan. Also located in the vicinity of Chipursan Valley are Ishkoman, Buroghil and Yasin valleys.
Misgar valley is a narrow human settlement located very close to the Chinese border, almost parallel to Chipursan. Misgar is home to the Qalamdarchi Fort Fort of the Naked Saint. This "fort" was created by the British rulers of Hunza Valley to keep an eye on the movement of Soviet troops and spies in the region. Kilik and Mintika Passes adorn were used by traders, troops, travellers and, maybe, spies in the past. This fort is in a dilapidated condition. Parts of the fort are being used by Jawans of Pakistan Army.