The 11th Cholistan Desert Jeep Rally came to a close on Sunday. This year’s rally, one of the largest held so far, was marred by administrative glitches and a tragic accident which claimed the life of a waste management worker.
Scores of people complained that they were stranded in a traffic jam for hours on the road to Derawar Fort on the first day of the event. They said that the traffic police had apparently not foreseen a traffic mess on the otherwise deserted road. They said there were no traffic policemen on the road. Which is why the route was blocked for hours in some places, they said.
On Saturday – the second day of the event – the tyre of a Bahawalpur Waster Management Company vehicle, en-route to Derawar Fort, burst near Ahmadpur and Muhammad Zeeshan, a waste management official, died and five others were critically injured. The injured were taken to Bahawal Victoria Hospital for treatment where doctors said their condition was serious.
Nadir Magsi, defending champion of the Cholistan Jeep Rally’s Category A, was unable to complete the race after his vehicle broke down two hours and 38 minutes into the race at the 201km mark. “I would have defended my title had my vehicle not broken down.” He said that the quality of facilities provided and the quality of vehicles in the rally had improved over the years. “This year, there are vehicles with twice the horsepower and speeds compare to those used when I started,” he said. This means that more and more people are willing to spend on such vehicles, he said. “The love of off-roading is catching on.” Magsi said regardless of how expensive or great one’s car is, the prize goes to those with skill. “We have better routes and drivers…if we had more resources we could take on any international racing competition.”
Farooq Ahmad, a driver in Category D, said he was a mechanic by profession. “I started out by racing at Jhal Magsi Jeep Rally in a car I had worked on in my workshop.” Ahmad had won the third prize at the rally. That motivated him to pursue his passion. According to unofficial results, Roni Patel has stood first in Category A and Zain Mehmood Majeed has won in Category B.
Sona Chandi – Hamid Rana and Sheeba Hassan – attended the rally. They said the nights of Cholistan were cold while days were sweltering. “It is our love for the rally that has brought us here…we enjoyed a lot and are looking forward to attending it next year.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2016.