CHITRAL, June 13: The polo fans of Chitral have urged the governments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Giglit-Baltistan to amicably resolve the issue of Shandur polo ground and ensure the famous annual festival is held as scheduled from June 20 to 22.
Talking to this correspondent here on Friday, a number of polo players, tour operators and hotel owners said the news of the boycott of Shandur festival by the GB government at the eleventh hour had sent shock waves across the Chitral valley. Tour operator Riaz Mustafa said the festival brought boons both to the areas of Chitral and GB with tens of hundreds of national and foreign tourists pouring into the venue. It also rejuvenated the dying tourism industry affected by the spate of terrorism.
“A good number of tourists had booked their rooms in the prominent hotels of the city to their full capacity,” he said adding that tourists had already coming here and the cancellation of the festival will produced a very bad image for future.
Zar Laal, a veteran polo player, said polo was the passion and craze of both the people of both the neighbours and only a polo player can feel the magnitude of agony caused by the annulment of the extravaganza. “I have regularly been going to Shandur regularly since 1982 when the festival was included in the calendar of events by the government and I feel highly perturbed when knew about the decision of GB government to boycott it,” he said.
“A polo player or its fan has nothing to do with the question of whose property it is but he wants the festival to be held at any cost and this fact should be recognized by both the governments”, he said. The MPA from upper Chitral, Syed Sardar Hussain expressed his hope that the GB government will revoke its decision and will participate in the event to make it a success. He said that he was in contact with the political leadership of GB to bring them round to the fact that the annulment of the event will inflict equal losses on both of them.
When the Chitral DC Aminul Haq was contacted to know his version about the nature of the issue leading to the harsh decision of GB government, he said in a meeting between the two governments held in the last week of May, all issues had been settled which were of trivial nature. He said that the two main demands of GB government were to give them 400 seats in the VIP enclosure and the inauguration of the festival by a dignitary of their province and both of them were accepted by us with slight changes.
However, the knee-jerk decision of the GB government to boycott the festival and raising the question of the ownership of the Shandur pasture at the eleventh hour has come as a surprise for us. He said that the matter was being taken up with the GB government by the higher authorities of KP government to persuade them to repeal their decision. It may be recalled that the GB had boycotted the festival earlier in the year 2011 but the festival was not postponed but intra-district polo matches were held.–Zahiruddin