Tour de Mohmand bicycle race promotes peace in FATA

By Danish Yousafzai

Cyclists race towards the finish line June 4 in Mohmand Agency during the Tour de Mohmand contest. [Danish Yousafzai]

Cyclists race towards the finish line June 4 in Mohmand Agency during the Tour de Mohmand contest. [Danish Yousafzai]

GHALANAI, Pakistan -- Pakistani bicyclists struck a blow for peace in Mohmand Agency June 4.

More than 70 bikers participated in the 66km-long Tour de Mohmand, racing from Gharsal Pass, near the Afghan border, to Ghalanai.

The Pakistan Cycle Federation (PCF) and the Mohmand Agency local administration organised the race to promote peace and healthy activities in militancy-stricken areas.

The first Tour de Mohmand took place last year.

Such activities prevent youth from becoming receptive to terrorist messages and promote peace, organisers and tribal elders say.

The competitors came "from all over Pakistan", PCF General Secretary Syed Azhar Ali Shah told Central Asia Online.

The 72 racers comprised 10 teams from various provinces, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the army and other locations and organisations, Shah said.

Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) biker Muhammad Sabir won with a time of 1 hour 38 minutes.

"The spectators encourage the cyclists, which is an indicator of peace in this area," Sabir told Central Asia Online.

Fun, healthy activities for all

Tribal elders and youths expressed their happiness to see a national-level sporting event in the war-torn tribal belt.

To prevent any terrorist event, the political administration and security forces carried out a comprehensive security plan to secure the racing zone.

In a show of confidence, law enforcement and high-ranking officials attended the event. They included the guest of honour, Syed Mehmood Aslam Wazir, political agent of Mohmand Agency.

"It's a very big achievement by the PCF, Pakistani army and political administration to pull off a peace bicycle race in Mohmand Agency, which was badly hit in the war against terrorism," Amjad Aziz Malik of Peshawar, secretary-general of the multi-national Asian Sports Journalists' Federation, told Central Asia Online.

Such events will not only provide a healthy outlet for FATA youth but will tell the world that FATA is safe for sports and other activities, Malik said.

Wajid Mohmand, 21, of Mohmand Agency, said he had not been aware that bicycle races existed.

"I have a new ambition," he said after cheering for the racers. "My hero is Muhammad Sabir."

It is positive to see FATA youth demonstrate an interest in biking, Nisar Ahmad, president of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Cycling Association, told Central Asia Online.

"Such activities will keep youth away from negative activities," he said. "We need to have more events like this across FATA to counter terrorism."

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