An annual Livestock Mela set off in Dera Ghazi Khan on Wednesday night without the usual zeal and attention to detail that participants said had been a hallmark of the event over the previous years.
Talking to The Express Tribune, tehsil municipal officer Azhar Nabi Diwan said the festival had been organised at a smaller scale in view of the recent terrorism incidents in the area. He said the mischievous elements could use large gatherings to mount an attack or create a law and order situation. He said the provincial government had directed the district administration to keep the festival low-key.
People who had set up stalls as well as customers, however, said they had not received any help from the administration. They said the event, famous for camel trade, had this year been started by traders on their own at the Cattle Market premises.
Saleem Khan, Fayyaz Leghari and Farooq Hebtani said there were more than 100 stalls at the festival which will go on till February 28. Besides camels, they said, traders have brought horses from Rajanpur, Rahim Yar Khan and Bahawalpur districts.
The participants also complained about a lack of security arrangements. They alleged that the few policemen who had been deployed at the site were harassing vendors to extort a share of their earnings.
Lal Khan, an Aleewala resident, said he had wanted to buy a camel but had been unable to select one at the festival and was returning home because of poor security arrangements.
He said customers from other areas would be discouraged from visiting the festival in the future if security arrangements were not improved. “I need to be sure about security if I have to carry money with me to the festival,” he said. Khan said he had earlier planned to stay overnight but would now return to his. He said he might come again the next day.
Muhammad Ali Sundhrana, another visitor, said terrorism was not a reasonable excuse to ignore a traditional festival. He said similar events were being held in other areas and some of these were getting government support as well.
Saifullah and Muhammad Umair, who had set up a toys stall, said business was slower than previous year. They said they had come from Faisalabad and Lahore, respectively, as last year they had made handsome sales during the week-long festival.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 24th, 2012.