GILGIT (ET): After all the delays and deliberation over the Shandur Polo Festival, the government of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) has finally decided not to hold the event this year.
“This has been officially decided and the festival has been cancelled,” confirmed Ghizer valley’s Deputy Commissioner Sibtain Ahmed on Saturday.
The move comes days after the K-P government contemplated holding the event from August 24-26 as suggested by the G-B government. “The decision has been taken in light of the destruction caused by floods, mainly in K-P,” Ahmed told The Express Tribune.
He said Malakand division was one of the areas severely affected by floods triggered by monsoon rains this summer. The annual festival had to be postponed earlier as a major road linking G-B to Chitral was blocked, suspending traffic between the two regions.
Gilgit’s senior administration official, Zafar Taj said organisers from K-P recently visited Shandur Top to see whether the area was still suitable for playing polo at 3,700 meters. “It was okay for the festival as far as availability of water in the channels was concerned,” said Taj, referring to the water that will be required for the thousands of spectators who come to watch the festival.
Apart from the devastation caused by floods, security concerns are also believed to be a potential factor in cancelling the festival. “Obviously K-P and now G-B are under threat from terrorists,” said DIG Ali Sher recently after gunmen shot dead three security officials investigating the murder of foreign tourists at Nanga Parbat base camp in June.
Shandur is the world’s highest polo ground where teams from G-B and Chitral play polo in its original form as it was played in the early 20th century. The festival attracts nearly 10,000 people including celebrities and public figures each year. It also boasts of folk music and dance, in addition to a camping village.