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Shandur Polo Festival
Shandur Polo Festival

G-B indecisive over boycotting Shandur Polo Festival

By Shabbir Mir

GILGIT: The Gilgit-Baltistan government is undecided over boycotting Shandur Polo Festival. The event, which has been jointly organised by G-B and K-P over the last decade, has become politicised by the boundary issue in recent years.

G-B lawmaker Barkat Jamil who is also the parliamentary secretary on tourism, told The Express Tribune the region will participate in the event as it has stakes at the festival.

However, another lawmaker Fida Khan told the media on Friday that G-B will not participate in the event as K-P has failed to remove G-B’s reservation over the organisation of the event.

“We have decided to stay away from the event since K-P is not willing to give us our due share in hosting it,” Fida told the media. He was referring to the share of revenue the event generates each year.

According to Fida, G-B will organise another event at the same place but after the end of Shandur Polo Festival.

The backdrop

The state of indecisiveness prevails at a time when dates for the festival have been finalised.

Chitral polo teams play against G-B teams in a thrilling competition of free style polo. The intensity and zeal with which players participate at Shandur, one of the highest grounds in the world, attracts a large number of spectators and nature lovers.

The region fears that if G-B withdraws, the event, based on healthy rivalry and competition, will lose its charm and fervour.

The G-B government spokesperson, Faizullah Farak, appeared unsure about the government’s official position regarding the event.

“I do not know whether G-B will participate or not, but Fida Khan said we have boycotted the event,” he told The Express Tribune.

In 2010, Gilgit first boycotted the festival to protest against the federal government’s decision to assign management and organisation of the event to K-P. The withdrawal was also over ownership rights of Shandur.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2016

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