Zubair Torwali

Researcher, Writer and Minority Language Activist
Executive Director, Idara Baraye Taleem-o-Taraqi
Swat, Pakistan

zubair torwali portraitHailing from Bahrain, Swat — the Switzerland of Pakistan — I am a researcher, author, protector of minority languages; social, cultural, civil society and human-rights activist; writer, columnist, blogger, journalist, voice of the unheard; and a powerful voice for the rights of all the marginalized linguistic communities of north Pakistan.

I founded a local civil society organization, Idara Baraye Taleem-o-Taraqi, i.e., institute for education and development, in 2007 in my native town of Swat. Since then I have been successfully leading the organization. It was a CBO with few young men and the first civil society organization in upper Swat. It is an organization for, by and of the indigenous nations of northern Pakistan.

I led it successfully, and it has now become an effective platform for the preservation, promotion and revitalization of endangered languages and cultures. This organization has also been working on education with a focus on education for girls. Since its inception in 2007, the organization has successfully implemented 17 projects on inclusive education, adult literacy, language and culture documentation and promotion, forest conservation and human rights.

I am a prolific writer, too. I have authored and co-authored a number of books in English, Urdu and in my native language, Torwali. I authored the book Muffled Voices: Longing for a Pluralist and Peaceful Pakistan. It is on languages, cultures, education, extremism and peace. The book was published in 2015 and has since been sold in Europe, the United States and other countries. I co-authored the book Paradise with award-winning Singaporean photographer Edwin Koo. The is on my native Swat valley and covers the resilience of the people amidst the Taliban insurgency (2006-09) and the floods of 2010. I have also written books on Torwali poetry and literature.

In addition, I write columns, blogs and features in The News International, Dawn, The Express Tribune, Daily Times, Pakistan Today and in the weekly Friday Times, besides a number of online magazines on social justice, language policy, linguistic and cultural rights, education and peace. I also write in Urdu for online magazines and newspapers. The major themes of my newspaper writings are education, culture, languages, peace, human development, social injustices, language polices, enlightenment, development and climate change.

I am an avowed activist for the cultural and linguistic rights of the linguistic minorities of North Pakistan, social justice, education, human rights protection and gender equality. As a public speaker, I frequently present papers on languages, cultures, education and climate change in international conferences, and I also speak at various forums in Pakistan. I am frequently invited to seminars, literature festivals, conferences and talk shows to speak on languages, cultures, education, climate change and forest conservation. I am also involved in the social mobilization of the linguistic minorities of Pakistan.

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