A sell-off on Shandur

CHITRAL, April 27: The KP government has made a robbery on the proprietary right of the people of Chitral on Shandur, the venue of the world’s famous annual polo festival.

A senior Chitrali government officer based in Peshawar told ChitralToday that by signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the government team from Gilgit-Baltistan during a conference held to discuss the arrangements for the annual event in Peshawar a few days ago, the PTI-led provincial government handed to the GB team in a platter more than they had been asking for since decades.

The elected representatives of Chitral, including MPA Sardar Hussain and Fouzia Bibi, were also present on the occasion but sadly they did not mince a word for the protection of the rights of Chitral. 

The officer said the MoU was totally one-sided and allowed the government of GB to make an encroachment on the land of Shandur which is located deep inside the territorial jurisdiction of Chitral.

The undisclosed MoU, copy available with ChitralToday, is captioned as “MoU of the seminar/meeting of the provincial ministerial committees of KPK and GB held in connection with the holding of the annual Shandur polo festival.”

Its contents show that the KP government has totally ceded to all the demands of the GB government to allow it to arrange the festival in the territory of Chitral only because otherwise it would not attend it.

The KP government, it seemed, preferred to go to any extent to please the government of Gilgit-Baltistan and persuade it to send its polo team to the event in order to earn more money in complete disregard to the proprietary rights of the people of Chitral on Shandur. The following are the contents of the one-sided and controversial MoU: (1) Hosting of the event: The event shall be organized jointly ie by the governments of KP and GB through a committee consisting of the following: the DCs of Chitral and Ghizer, the MPA/MLA from the adjoining areas of both the regions, the presidents of the polo associations of the two regions. Strangely, the president of an unknown organization, called “Shandur Welfare Organization” has been made the ex-officio member/convener of the committee.

(2) Administrative/seating arrangements: All arrangements with regard to inviting guests, seat allocation plan, ensuring equal distribution, and security of VIPs, dais/pavilions would be made jointly by the administrations of the respective districts ie Chitral and Ghizer through the above mentioned committee. (3) Security: Police/civil armed forces of both the regions ie Gilgit-Baltistan and KPK shall be deployed for security of the area during the festival. Both the barriers at the entry/exit towards Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral shall be manned by both the forces (police/scouts) of GB and KP.

(4) Royalty/ sponsorship/funding: There is a great sense of deprivation on the GB side regarding the unequal distribution of funds, royalty, sponsorship and other sources of funding.

It is proposed that funds, sponsorship and other sources of the event shall equally be distributed between the two sides ie GB and KP. As the beauty of the event depends on the polo players/teams of both the regions, it is proposed that a handsome share of the royalty/sponsorships/funds shall be reserved in favour of the aforementioned.

(5) Sipasnama (welcome address): Even the KP government and the people of Chitral were deprived of their right to present the welcome address in front of the chief guest at the festival. The MoU said, “A maximum of 10 minutes would be allowed for presenting the Sipasnama. Either a joint Sipasnama, prepared and drafted by the DCs of both Chitral and Ghizer district would be presented or both the regions shall be allocated five minutes each to present their own Sipasnamas separately. In case of a joint Sipasnama, the presenter shall be selected on an alternate year basis from both the regions ie KP and GB.

(6) Any other issue: any issue not entertained hereunder or that emerges at any stage or remains unsettled at the level of the committee mentioned at serial # 1 shall be referred to the ministerial committee for guidance. Despite repeated attempts by ChitralToday, MPA Sardar Hussain could not be contacted for his comments on the issue.