In Pakistani desert town, racers’ adrenaline-fueled bravado is the highlight of Eid festivities 

Riders on their cars and bikes in Domail, a town on the edge of North Waziristan tribal district on August 13, 2019, at a racing event that has become the yearly crown jewel of Eid Al-Adha celebrations in the Koshi Bridge Desert. (AN Photo)
Updated 14 August 2019
0

In Pakistani desert town, racers’ adrenaline-fueled bravado is the highlight of Eid festivities 

  • Around 15,000 people arrive each year for car and bike races in Domail on the edge of North Waziristan tribal district
  • Koshi Bridge Desert is home to area’s largest sand dunes, attracted 50 local and out-of-town riders this year

DOMAIL, Pakistan: On Monday evening, Rafi Wazir arrived in Koshi Bridge Desert with around 15,000 other Pakistanis for an annual motorbike and car racing event that has become the crown jewel of Eid-al-Adha celebrations in Domail, a town on the edge of Pakistan’s northwestern North Waziristan tribal district. 
Eid-al-Adha, the second of Islam’s two major religious festivals, also called the “festival of sacrifice,” is celebrated each year on the 10th day of the 12th and last month of the lunar Islamic calendar. 




Car and bike riders and spectators seen in Domail, a town on the edge of North Waziristan tribal district on August 13, 2019. The racing event has become the yearly crown jewel of Eid Al-Adha celebrations  in the Koshi Bridge Desert. (AN Photo)

The Pakistan government has called for the festival to be observed in a “simple manner” this year, to express solidarity with Kashmiris living on the Indian side of the divided region.
But in Koshi Bridge Desert, which boasts one of the area’s largest sand dunes, celebrations commenced as they do each year — with firework displays, barbecue feasts and over 50 local and out-of-town riders trying out a five-mile-long circular track, going over and around the dunes and showing off their adrenaline-fueled bravado. 
“Racers and bikers compete with their most powerful four-wheelers and bikes on the dunes and sand,” Wazir, 43, said, as a line of motorcyclists whizzed past him, leaving behind a cloud of smoke and cheering spectators. “An interesting aspect of the celebrations is that there is no winner or loser.” 





A biker manoeuvres sand dunes in Domail, a town on the edge of North Waziristan tribal district on August 13, 2019 at a racing event that has become the yearly crown jewel of Eid Al-Adha celebrations  in the Koshi Bridge Desert. (AN Photo)

North Waziristan and its adjacent regions along the porous border with Afghanistan have long been racked by militancy, serving as safe havens for insurgents and becoming the epicenter of military operations to drive them out. 
But even in the heyday of a decades-old Taliban insurgency, Wazir said, the races had gone on as usual. The Taliban, as opposed to most forms of entertainment and sport, did not interfere in the event, which Wazir said he had been attending since he was a school-going boy. 
Wazir said his brother Attaullah, who works in Dammam, a main town in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), had arrived home three days before Eid especially to attend the races. Attaullah is among thousands of people from the area who have left to seek employment in Gulf countries, primarily in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait.
“My brother [Attaullah Wazir] has come on a two-week holiday only to attend the race,” Wazir said.




Vehicles move to the track to take part in a car and bike race in Domail, a town on the edge of North Waziristan tribal district, on August 13, 2019. The event has become the yearly crown jewel of Eid Al-Adha celebrations  in the Koshi Bridge Desert. (AN Photo)

Jamal Shah, a bike racer, said the villagers had been waiting for weeks to watch the race. 
On Monday evening, as the sunset, fireworks erupted in the background and participants and visitors alike rested in their tents, ate barbecued lamb, listening to traditional songs played by local musicians and prepared their vehicles for Tuesday’s adventure.
“Eid does not even hold as much importance for our youngsters as this car and bike race does,” Shah said, smiling. “Every Eid, this event brings economic opportunities for locals as roadside stalls turn the desert into a brimming market.”


 


Jammu and Kashmir: A disputed state under siege 

Updated 22 August 2019
0

Jammu and Kashmir: A disputed state under siege 

  • New Delhi fears protests if communication is restored and presence of troops scaled down in Kashmir
  • There is widespread anger and resentment among the people of the disputed region

SRINAGAR: It’s been more than two weeks since Indian administered Kashmir has been facing a security lockdown and prohibitory order. 
Markets in major parts of the Muslim majority region of Jammu and Kashmir are shut amid a communication blackout. 
Kashmiris have been barred from using any form of technology to communicate and denied even a basic phone call.
New Delhi’s decision on August 5 to abrogate two articles of the Indian constitution, Article 370 and 35-A, that gave the disputed state a special autonomous status under the Indian union has brought the Kashmir valley to a standstill.
The Modi administration has imposed strict prohibitor orders, reinforcing parliamentary troops to man each and every nook and corner of the valley.
The administration governing the Kashmiri districts relaxed the prohibitory order on August 19, allowing schools to reopen. It also restored some telephone landlines.
However, protests in some parts of Srinagar and Kashmiri towns forced the government to reimpose the communication ban. 
The schools remain empty days after reopening. 
People are gripped in fear. Uncertainty looms. Reports suggest that grieved communities have resorted to civil disobedience by keeping markets shuttered down and not sending their children to school.
There is widespread anger and resentment among the people. Majority of the Kashmiris feel let down by the government’s decision to strike down the special status passing a rush decree to annex their state without holding a plebiscite.
They say that their identity has been attacked and it’s not possible to live under abject humiliation.
Modi’s government fears large scale protests and resistance if communication is fully restored and the presence of troops is scaled down. 
If violence erupts, New Delhi fears that it stands to lose its political narrative domestically and internationally.
Jammu and Kashmir remains on edge. A disputed state divided between, India and Pakistan but fully claimed by both is under siege on New Delhi’s orders which has violated the UN charter.
It remains to be seen how long the Indian paramilitary forces will be able to contain the growing anger and angst among the local populace of the Muslim-majority region under Indian rule.