GILGIT: The administration of Gilgit-Balististan is focusing its energies on the Babusar Polo Festival days after it pulled out its team from the Shandur Polo Festival.
The Babusar event is fast becoming a permanent fixture in Gilgit-Baltistan’s sporting calendar.
The festival has been taking place every year in the Diamer district since 2007.
The free-style polo tournament is played at 13,812 feet above sea level at Babusar Pass and a large number of polo lovers from Pakistan and abroad throng Gilgit for the event.
The three-day event takes place in August, exactly a month after the Shandur Polo Festival in an attempt to keep the ‘polo fervour’ alive.
The Gilgit-Baltistan government had boycotted the Shandur Polo Festival this year over a boundary row of Shandur with the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government. To make matters worse, the federal government had allowed the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government to organise the festival following which Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Mehdi Shah announced a boycott of the festival and recalled the Gilgit team.
The Gilgit-Baltistan government is going all out to facilitate visitors to the scenic valley and those in charge of organising the festival are feeling the pressure. “After boycotting of the Shandur festival, it has become all the more important for us to fulfill our responsibilities regarding the Babusar Polo Tournament,” Diamer Deputy Commissioner Sibtain Ahmed told a meeting convened to oversee the festival’s arrangement.
The main features of the festival include tent-pegging, tug of war, a photo exhibition, paragliding, a gemstone exhibition, a handicrafts exhibition, trekking, horse riding and camp fires.
Making Babusar accessible to those who want to visit is one of the most fundamental challenges for the organisers. In Gilgit-Baltistan, high altitude roads are often blocked by heavy snowfall in the winters and remain closed until September when the snow melts due to rising temperatures.
But, Ahmed said, the road linking Babusar to Chilas will be opened for traffic in a day or two and Babusar has now been made easily accessible from Naran and Kaghan valleys of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
Local politician Hanji Gandal Shah and president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Abdul Waheed Haider told reporters that they would ensure that tourists enjoyed not just the festival but also the region.
For now, however, local volunteers have constructed a bridge at the Babusar Nullah on a self-help basis to enable vehicles to pass over the small ravine.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2010.