The 8th Cholistan Jeep Rally organised annually by the Tourism Development Corporation of Punjab (TDCP) kicked off on Friday at Derawar Fort with a qualifying round on Saturday.
Thousands of spectators and participants have erected a tent village in a 10 km radius of the fort. As many as 100,000 enthusiasts are expected at the final race today (Sunday).
Addressing the inauguration on Friday, Bahawalpur Commissioner Muhammad Khan Khichi said the event had brought international recognition to Cholistan and Bahawalpur and other provinces were following suit. He hoped that the rally would help accelerate development in the area.
District Coordination Officer Dr Naeem Rauf said the administration will extend its cooperation to ensure nothing untoward happened at the event. A food street for the participants and tourists had been set up, he said.
TDCP Managing Director Habibur Rehman Gillani said they were formulating a new tourism policy for the province. He said work had recently started on a chair-lift at Fort Munro and a rest house in Kot Mithan. Gillani thanked the Army, Rangers, police, district administration and the media for their cooperation.
Rally Coordinator Shahid Mehmood told The Express Tribune the rally route was 210 km long. He said there were 12 check-posts and jeeps would stop for a break after 105 km. Two Army battalions, two battalions from the Rangers and 500 policemen would provide security on the route, he said.
Mehmood said the rally had four categories. The first category included 3,401cc petrol vehicles and 3,500cc diesel vehicles, the second included 2,401cc-3,500cc petrol vehicles and the third 1,401cc-2,400cc petrol vehicles and 1,601cc-2,900cc diesel vehicles. The fourth category would include 1,400cc petrol vehicles and 1,600cc diesel vehicles, he said.
Besides the qualifying event on Saturday, paragliding stunts were performed by expert gliders including Qazi Tufail and Qazi Aqeel Ahmad from KP who performed stunts with a two-seater plane. Ahmad told The Express Tribune he was from Landi Arbab in Peshawar. He said he had been invited by KP Governor Engineer Shaukatullah to perform at the rally.
The visitors also enjoyed delicious local cuisine at the food street. However, many complained about ruts and potholes on the road leading to Derawar Fort. The Express Tribune learnt that two Italian and two Egyptian enthusiasts scheduled to participate in the event had been unable as they did not get NOCs from their home countries on time.
Bahawalpur Ameer Nawab Salahuddin Abbasi will wave the flag at the final round today (Sunday). Prizes will be distributed by MNA Chaudhry Saud Majeed.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2013.