Gilgit-Baltistan: Traditional Zeal and Fervor Missed at Shandur Polo Tournament

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PESHAWAR (News): Despite all odds, the Shandur Polo Festival succeeded in attracting thousands of visitors to enjoy a variety of festivities at the highest polo ground in the world. Though the Shandur Polo Festival is celebrated every year from July 7-9, this year the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government decided to hold the festival a few days before the scheduled date due to the advent of Ramazan. The three-day event was celebrated from June 20-23.

Though the event was a success, the boycott of of the polo tournament by Gilgit-Baltistan deprived the visitors of the usual fun and excitement by watching the traditional rivals-Chitral and Gilgit- in action against each other. Gilgit- Baltistan government had raised the issue of the ownership of Shandur and accused Khyber Pakhtunkhwa of occupying it. The final match was played between teams of Chitral Police and Mastuj. These teams reached the final after defeating their rivals in the league matches during the tournament. The Police team scored 10 goals against five by Mastuj to lift the trophy. “The crowd in the final was less than the previous year and the reason was that it wasn’t played between the two traditional rivals,” said Murad Baig, a regular visitor at the tournament.

Riaz Daudzai, a senior journalist from Peshawar who also attended the three-day event, said the provincial government and, if possible, the federal government should give ample attention to the Shandur festival as it has now attained status of a global event. But, Daudzai said, the lukewarm approach of the authorities concerned is contributing to the hardships experienced by the visitors at Shandur, the proverbial roof of the world. Apart from polo matches, donkey polo, glider show, two cultural shows and an impressive firework enthralled the audience. The cultural shows attracted huge crowds.

Leading singers from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Chitral including Wisal Khial, Ashraf Gulzar, Sami Khan, Shahid Khan Malang and Mehtab Zia along with music and dancing groups from Chitral entertained the audience with the folk music.

“The fireworks were wonderful. It literally mesmerised us,” said Muhammad Aban, a visitor from Mardan. Inspector General (IG) Frontier Corps, Major General Muhammad Tayyab Azam was the chief guest on the occasion. On the final day, advisor to chief minister on sports, culture and tourism Amjad Afridi was the chief guest. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf MPA Ishtiaq Urmar and a large number of dignitaries attended the event.

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