PESHAWAR: Pakistani officials said on Friday the participants of a national cycling competition enjoyed the stunning landscapes of Orakzai tribal district where the contest was arranged for the first time in history to mark World Tourism Day.
The country’s tribal belt, which borders Afghanistan, witnessed significant violence in the last two decades after the United States and its allies arrived in the region in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington.
The region turned into a militant bolthole and the Pakistani security forces had to launch a string of military operations to dislodge these factions and reclaim the territory.
As normalcy returned to the area, however, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Cycling Association and the provincial Culture and Tourism Authority decided to hold the All Pakistan Cycle Race in Orakzai, the only tribal district which does not share a border with Afghanistan.
“This was the first All Pakistan Cycle Race in tribal areas in which 45 cyclists from different parts of the country, such as Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab provinces, participated,” Ishtiaq Ahmad, project director of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Culture and Tourism Authority, said. “It was great fun and everyone enjoyed this rare show in the scenic town.”
He said the provincial administration wanted to adopt more measures to promote the region’s rich tourism sector, adding it also planned to hold similar events in the rest of the tribal territories.
Ahmad said the reason for arranging the cycling competition in the tribal region was to tell the world it had finally acquired peace and stability.
He added that promoting tourism would help reduce poverty in the area and strengthen the national economy.
Nisar Ahmad, president of the provincial cycling association, said he was impressed to see the enthusiasm among the residents of Orakzai who contributed a great deal to the success of the event.
“Most of the cyclists participated for the first time in the race where they got a unique biking experience in the midst of the area’s mesmerizing natural beauty,” he added.
Sadiq Ullah, a cyclist who won the second position in the tournament, told Arab News he joined the race since it was a good track which stretched across lush green mountains.
“I also enjoyed the Orakzai cycling competition due to the hospitality of people who formed long queues along our route and encouraged each one of us,” he continued.
He maintained the authorities should arrange more national events in the country’s tribal region and involve its young residents to generate economic activities and turn the place into a tourist destination.