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Controversy erupts over Shandur polo festival

 The News – Thursday, June 25, 2009 – Tauseef-ur-Rahman

Minister says law and order not too bad to hold event
PESHAWAR: A controversy has erupted over holding of the annual Shandur polo festival as the Chitral district government has recommended to the provincial government to not to hold the event owing to the deteriorating law and order situation.

On the other hand, NWFP Minister for Sports and Culture Syed Aqil Shah has said the event would be held to disseminate the message that terror activities could not shatter our confidence. The event is to be held on July 7.

Talking to The News by phone, Chitral District Nazim Haji Maghfirat Shah said the security forces would not be able to provide fail-safe security to the participants of the

sports gala. “Our 4,000 scouts have already been deployed in conflict-hit areas and close proximity of the venue of the event to Doog Darra area of Dir Upper may expose the participants of the festival to any untoward situation.”

Doog Darra till the recent past was considered to be a stronghold of militants. The volunteer forces of Dir, however, besieged militants in Doog Darra after a Taliban-linked youth carried out a suicide attack in a mosque in Dir, killing 48 persons.

Maghfirat Shah said that recently they held an all-parties meeting at district level where all political forces except the Awami National Party (ANP) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) voted against holding the sports event.

He added that any mishap in the upcoming event might put a permanent end to the sports festival, which would not augur well for the residents of the district. “We want continuation of this event, which is why we’re opposing its holding this year,” he said.

Nevertheless, NWFP Minister for Sports Syed Aqil Shah told The News by phone that law and order in Chitral was not too bad to hold the polo festival. He said the provincial government had contacted the commander of 11 Corps and high-ups of the Frontier Corps, who assured them their cooperation to make the event a success.

He said the final match of the District Polo Tournament was held in Chitral on Wednesday, which was witnessed by more than 30,000 spectators. “At the end of the match,

thousands of spectators chanted slogans in favour of holding the Shandur polo festival,” he said.

Aqil Shah said a handful of people were opposing the holding of sports event, and come rain or shine, the provincial government would hold the event. “Such events will boost people’s morale on the one hand and improve the image of the province on the other,” he maintained.

Meanwhile, an important meeting regarding the holding of Shandur polo festival was held on Wednesday at the Chitral District Council Hall, with NWFP Minister for Population Welfare Saleem Khan in the chair. The meeting was attended by Chitral District Nazim Maghfirat Shah and nazims of all union councils of Chitral.

Provincial Minister Saleem Khan apprised the meeting about the point of view of the provincial government about the Shandur polo festival.Expressing their views on the matter, the nazims said Shandur festival was an important festival of Chitral but due to the

prevailing law and order in the province and the heavy loss of lives of the security personnel of Chitral in the ongoing war against militants, the holding of Shandur festival seemed very difficult. Saleem Khan said he would apprise the provincial government of the reservations of the district government.