A polo competition played on yaks in a remote corner of
Pakistan has fallen prey to the war on terror.
A Pakistani military intelligence agency has ordered
that the festival, which is played in a mountainous area
of Chitral bordering Afghanistan, on the ancient Silk
Road, be moved to a neighbouring district because it is
too close to a CIA listening post.
Pakistan, a key ally in the US-led war on terror, built
the spy station to monitor cross-border infiltration by
Islamic militants in an area the CIA believes could be a
refuge for Osama bin Laden.
The intelligence agency informed the North West Frontier
Province government that the tournament, which is played
on arguably the world's highest polo ground at the
13,000ft Boroghil Pass, must be moved for "security
Officials want to deter foreigners from visiting the
area which Russia and Britain sparred over during the
19th century "Great Game" of imperial expansion.
"We will have all the same activities but in a more
secure place," said Syed Aqil Shah, the province's
minister for tourism.
But locals, who come from Pakistan's poor, semi-nomadic
Wakhi people, have complained that the move would entail
herding dozens of yaks over a glacier and the 15,000ft
Darkhot Pass in the Hindu Kush to Gilgit, a land alien
to the Wakhi.
A local dignitary, who asked not to be named, said the
move had "caused local anger and threatened the Wakhi's
only source of income".
"They have built this so-called listening post next to
the road in the valley where they play polo. Why could
they not have built it higher up away from the Wakhi?" (read
from source ...>>)