Gilgit-Baltistan Boycotts Shandur Polo Festival For The Third Time Since 2011

Shandur Polo Festival 2016

The Government of Gilgit-Baltistan has decided to withdraw its participation in Shandur Polo Festival 2016. This is the third time G-B Government has boycotted the world famous polo festival since. Gilgit-Baltistan did not participate in the event last year as well.

The decision came after the governments of Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa failed to build a consensus to organize the event jointly. According to Fida Khan, who represented Gilgit-Baltistan Government, KPK is trying to create a monopoly in the sport which is why arranging the event jointly could not be possible.

Talking to media in Islamabad, the lawmaker said:

“KP administration is deliberately escalating tension by illegally occupying the territory,”

he added:

 “The GB government had decided to boycott the event when Chitral administration refused to host the event on equal basis.”

Earlier,  G-B lawmaker Barkat Jamil, who is also the parliamentary secretary on tourism, had announced that Gilgit-Baltistan will participate in the event only if it has stakes in the festival.

Shandur Polo Festival
A flyer used by KPK Government to promote the festival on social media.
Shandur Polo Festival - Chitral vs Gilgit
Another flyer used by KPK Government to promote the festival on social media.

The Shandur dispute goes unresolved for decades leading to indifference between the governments of Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Lack of interest by federal government to help resolve the issue is creating hurdles in promotion of tourism and the game of polo itself. The dispute has also led to deployment of armed forces by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government in Shandur which G-B thinks is illegal.

Talking to GBee, Shahid Raza, who has been travelling from Lahore to attend the event regularly since early 2000 said:

“It is quite unfortunate that Gilgit and Chitral are not being able to resolve the Shandur dispute. The federal government should step forward and take actions to resolve it. There should be no more bad politics and backdoor diplomacy.”

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will organize the event on 22th, 23rd and 24th of July this year.

The Government of Gilgit-Baltistan is yet to announce a date for their version of Shandur Polo Festival.

There will be no Chitral vs Gilgit matches which is the main attraction of the entire event.

Imran Hunzai
Imran Hunzai is a Digital Media Consultant and activist based in Islamabad, Pakistan. When free, he likes to travel, do photography and play Rabab. He also runs a HONY inspired blog called Humans of Hunza. Follow him of Twitter @ihunzai.


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