MINGORA / PESHAWAR: Tourists thronged to Mahodand Lake in Swat Valley to attend the Fifth Kalam Festival on Friday.
According to insiders, the event was launched by Corps Commander Peshawar at the base of Mahodand Lake on Thursday and the celebration continued amid gusto on Friday.
Speaking on the occasion, Peshawar Corps Commander Lieutenant General Hidayatullah Rehman said the festival is aimed at restoring peace in Swat and will be held every year to attract tourists.
“The people of Swat Valley are genuinely hospitable,” Rehman said. “A large number of tourists are drawn to the region because of this welcoming spirit. Furthermore, we make an effort to guarantee security to tourists.”
Also speaking on the occasion, Malakand DIG Azad Khan said the festival was supposed to take place last month.
“However, it was postponed due to heavy rains and subsequent floods in Chitral,” he said. “However, locals have worked extremely hard to make this festival a success.”
Fazal Malik, a local elder who attended the festival, told The Express Tribune that he was not too happy with the arrangements.
“The security forces have tried their best to provide facilities,” he said. “However, the provincial and district governments had done nothing to attract tourists this year. The roads are in a state of disrepair and it is difficult for people to visit the area.”
Mustan Khan, a tourist from Batkhela, said it took him around five hours to reach the venue due to the condition of the roads. “All these matters should have been taken into account when the festival was being organised,” he added.
Governor Sardar Mehtab Ahmad Khan also attended the festival. According to a handout issued on Friday, the governor said the festival serves as welcome proof that military offensives in North Waziristan and Khyber Agency have been largely successful and peace has finally been restored.
“Like the Shandur festival in Chitral, Kalam festival will be held regularly from now on,” the handout quoted Mehtab as saying. “New and improved facilities will be provided to assist this process.”
The governor emphasised the need for improved town planning, better drainage system and upgraded forest and water resources management in Malakand Division.
During the festival, multiple stalls were set up where local embroidery, Chitrali sandals, Salampuri shawls and traditional dresses were put on display.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 5th, 2015.