CHITRAL: The cultural diversity of Chitral is associated with a series of festivals whose timings coincide with all the four seasons of the year, but these occasions are yet to be officially patronised to promote tourism in the district.
People related to tourism sector in different capacities complained that except for Kalash festival of Chilim Jusht and Shandur polo festival, no other festivals were publicised by the government to attract tourists.
Zahid Ashraf, a former college teacher, explained that Gobor, Baroghil and Shandur festivals were held in summer; Phindik, Ghari Khomik in autumn, chitramas in winter, and Kagh Lusht, Pathak Dik and Nowroze were held in spring.
He said some valleys of the district presented a captivating view in the autumn when tree leaves turned yellow, pink and red while a number of valleys like Terich, Oveer, Melp, Yarkhoon and the villages of Booni looked like covered by a yellow blanket. But, he said the festivals were never showcased by the tourism department.
He said the festivals depicted the socio-cultural life of the local people who were also well connected with the cultural traits of modern times. He said bull fighting competition was one of the events of Ghari Khomik festival in many villages.
Shamsud Din, the local head of a development organisation, said most of the festivals lasted for three to five days during which the local cuisines and costumes were showcased. He said with the completion of Lowari tunnel and its inauguration in June next year as announced by the prime minister last week, the tourism sector would take a turn for the good as approaching Chitral valley would be easy.
Presently, the tourists used to come here with the advent of summer season but the Lowari tunnel will present an all-weather route to Chitral.
Shahzada Sirajul Mulk, the founder chairman of Chitral Association for Mountain Areas Tourism, said all the festivals had great attractions for the eco-tourists coming from different countries, and added that there was an urgent need of hard and fast schedule fixed for them by the government.
Citing the examples of the famous Chilim Jusht and Shandur festivals, he said these events attracted a large number of tourists only because the dates for the festivals were well-known to a tourist from Europe.
Mr Mulk said 80 per cent increase in the number of tourists was possible if a fixed calendar for the festivals was developed at least for five years which could be easily disseminated by the tour operators.
When contacted, district nazim Maghfirat Shah said the district government was evolving a strategy to exploit the tourism potential of Chitral.
He admitted that tourism industry was at present in disarray and there was a need to prepare a calendar of the local festivals and events and have them publicised and make arrangements for tourists to participate in them.
Mr Shah said the core issue of unemployment could be tackled by promoting tourism industry in the district. — by Zahiruddin source