Upcoming National Games in KP to highlight revival of peace

By Adeel Saeed


Football players pose for a photograph with the president of the KP Football Association, Syed Zahir Ali Shah, in August. KP is holding the National Games in October. [Adeel Saeed]

PESHAWAR -- Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) is set to host the National Games, a multi-sport event in October that will put the spotlight on the area's return to peace after years of being beset with militancy and terrorism.

The event, which KP last organised in 2010, will provide the opportunity for about 10,000 players and organisers of different sports from across the country to visit the province and participate in their chosen athletic speciality.

Prime Minister Imran Khan will inaugurate the upcoming games on October 21, and President Arif Alvi will attend the closing ceremony, scheduled for October 27.

"By holding the National Games, we will send a message of a peace revival to the world community" and highlight the improvement of security in the region, KP Senior Minister for Tourism, Culture, Sports, Archaeology and Youth Affairs Atif Khan said in an interview.

The games will cost about Rs. 170 million ($1 million), according to Khan.

While the provincial government is working to promote the image of KP as a region of "peace-loving" inhabitants, it has also revamped the tourism sector of the province by opening of new scenic sites and enhancing security to assure visitors to the area, said Khan.

Some events will take place in tribal districts that recently merged with KP, he said.

Two venues in those districts, the Jamrud Sports Complex in Khyber District and Younis Khan Stadium in Waziristan District, were selected to hold events. It will be the first time the National Games will have events in these areas, according to Khan.

Dispelling misconceptions

About a decade ago, militancy was at its peak in KP and terrorists targeted sporting events in the region to spread fear among local residents.

For example, in 2010, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive-laden vehicle at an open playground packed with spectators at a volleyball match in Lakki Marwat District of KP, taking more than 100 lives.

"Holding the National Games in KP is meant to restore the confidence of our public and athletes in the return of normality and peace to the region," said Aqil Ali Shah, president of Olympic Association KP.

This will be the 33rd National Games, with players of 34 different sports participating, said Shah. Of those 34 sports, 27 will have female players.

"The upcoming National Games will be the seventh to be held in Peshawar," said Ejaz Ahmad, a senior Peshawar-based sports journalist and president of the Sports Writers Association KP.

"The National Games last took place in KP in 2010, amid very strict security measures by the Pakistani army," he said in an interview.

Such large events provide an opportunity for members of all walks of life -- including players, journalists, organisers and politicians -- to meet and interact in the region, Ahmad said. That diversity not only helps establish and broaden contacts but also dispels misconceptions about KP.

About 30 journalists from across the country will come to Peshawar to cover the event, said Ahmad, who is also heading the media committee for the games.

A torch relay for the National Games will begin from Mazar-e-Quaid in Karachi and pass through Quetta, Lahore and Islamabad to Bab-e-Khyber in Torkham in Khyber District and then arrive at its final destination in Peshawar, Ahmad added.

"Holding the National Games will attract youngsters to sports and encourage present-day sportsmen and -women to participate and improve their performance," said Nisar Khan, president of the KP Cycling Association.

KP has great potential in producing sportsmen and sportswomen at international standards if proper playing environments are available to youth, he said, adding that the holding of the National Games is a step in the right direction.

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