SHANDUR: Known as a ‘Games of Kings’, the annual internationally famed Shandur polo festival is a unique historical sports played in the world highest polo ground between Chitral and Gilgit Baltistan teams since 1937 attracted influx of tourists and adventure sports enthusiasts was sucessfully concluded here Sunday.
Played on an altitude of some 12,000 feet of above sea level at Shandur pass at Upper Chitral during July 1-3, 2022, the festival witnessed a large number of tourists, adventurers and polo lovers from across the country that applauded both the experienced and young players during the thrilling free-style polo matches amid great sportsmen spirit, fun and excitement.
Sucessfully organized since 1937, this year’s impressive festival was inagurated by Secretary Sports, Tourism and Youth Affairs Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Muhammad Tahir Orakzai and Director General Cultural and Tourism Authority KP Abid Wazir.
Excited matches, paragliding, adventure and cultural events were held in the beautiful valley of Shandur surrounded by the snow-clad mountains and lush green forests amid birds chanting velleys, hide and seek between sun and clouds and cool breeze that doubled joys of sports enthusiasts.
The event was organized by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Culture and Tourism Authority (KPCTA) in collaboration with Headquarters XI Corps Peshawar, Frontier Corps North, District Administration Chitral Upper and Lower after a break of two years due COVID-19 pandemic.
Secretary Tourism, Muhammad Tahir Orakzai told media that It was due to the efforts of government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that we are able to witness the successful Shandur polo festival after a gap of two years.
“The rugged polo is our traditional game that plays an important role in promotion of adventure tourism. The mountain range of Malakand division is perfect for adventure tourism and the provincial government, tourism department and tourism and culture authority are working together to develop and promote this region as a tourism destination.”
He said the authorities were also formed at the regional level to promote tourism in the province. Laspur team of the Chitral and Ghizer team of Gilgit-Baltistan battled against each other in the opening match. Laspur team of Chitral has comfortably won the match by scoring 16 goals against four by Ghizer team.
The spectators applauded the paragliders of Pakistan Army Physical Training School Abbottabad and SSG Commandos of Pakistan Army, who exhibited a spectacular show of para trooping and performed various daring tricks in the sky making the the event to remember.
Children from Gilgit-Baltistan performed on national songs, whereas traditional dances were exhibited by young boys of Kalash Valley. The audience enjoyed the concert that included traditional music of Gilgit Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa besides the Shandur song of Zek Afridi.
The excellent arrangements for successful holding of the historic event has impressed tourists. “I have heard a lot about Shandur polo festival and today my dream to watch my favourite free style polo matches in the highest polo ground of world has come true,” said Shahryar Khan, a resident of Peshawar while talking to APP at Shandur.
“The horse riding skills and sportsmen spirit demonstrated by the polo players impressed me the most,” he said. Impressed by paragliding, Shahryar said that tourists took keen interest in adventure sports including mountaineering, hiking and traditional food. Enjoying the pleasant but relatively cool nights at Shandur, he said cultural and musical shows with traditional ‘tabla and rabab’ enthralled the tourists. Such events would help promote sustainable tourism and adventure sports in northern areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa besides promote the country’s soft image, he added.
Saad Khan, spokesman Cultural and Tourism Authority KP told APP that Shandur sports festival remained highly sucessful. He said such event will help ensure conservation of existing polo sports and promotion of new tourism sites.
To promote adventure sports, he said a 14 kilometers long cable car service between Upper Dir and Chitral Lower would be constructed with an estimated cost of Rs32 billion that would make KP a hub of tourism.
Four integrated tourism zones (ITZs) would be developed at Mankiyal Swat, Thandyani Abbottabad, Ganol Manshera and Madaskhast Lower Chitral to promote adventure tourism. These ITZs would be constructed with financial assistance of World Bank of USD70 million loan grant and its feasibility studies and master planning in final stages. It would be linked with Hazara and Swat Motorways through approach roads.
In Hund Swabi, a sports theme park would be constructed on 400 kanal land for which MoU has already been signed. Saad Khan said recreational spots in premises of five small dams including Tanda Kohat, Kundal dam Swabi, Chatri dam Haripur, Jalozai dam Nowshera and Jangza dam in Abbottabad district would be developed.
Three new ski resorts in Kaghan, Chitral and Swat would be established besides four new hill stations including two in Kaghan, one each in Chitral and Abbottabad. Under Tourist Facilitation Hub (TFH) project, he said that 69 archeological signboards in Mardan,102 signboards were installed on Swat motorway, 93 boards in Swat and 48 boards in DI Khan.
RESCUE 1122 stations were setup at Ayubia, Thandiyani, Kewai, Kalash and Kumrat having facilities of two ambulances, one firefighting vehicle and emergency equipment.
The Federal and KP Government’s pro-tourism policies has helped Pakistan to make a big jump by improving sixth place ie 83rd from 89th in the International Travel and Tourism Development Index (TTDI), which was a great honour for Pakistan.