The first-ever ‘Peace and Cultural Festival’ after conclusion of a military operation in Dir Lower district was inaugurated at Timergara on Saturday. The five-day festival was inaugurated by Commandant Dir Scouts Col Kamran Aslam in the presence of local politicians including Senator Ahmad Hassan Khan, Provincial Minister Mahmood Zeb Khan, ANP central vice president Zahir Shah Khan, district president Hussain Shah Yousafzai, athletes, notables of the area and a large number of people. Addressing the inaugural ceremony, Col Kamran said that people of Dir Lower needed healthy entertainment activities. He said that complete peace was restored in the area. “Now people should come forward and take part in positive activities,” he said, adding that the festival was aimed at building public confidence and conveying a message to the world about complete peace in Dir. “This will also help to promote tourism in the region,” he said. A large number of youth, women and children visited the festival on the first day and took keen interest in stalls of handicrafts, books, traditional food and embroidered shawls. Special arrangements were made for children. Personnel of FC and government officials presented Khattak dance on the occasion.
In a rare development separate delegations of the most conservative religious parties, the Jamiat ul Ulema Islam Fazl (JUI-F) and Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) on Sunday visited the cultural and peace festival arranged by the Tourism Corporation Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, sports and culture departments and Pakistan army here at Dir Scouts ground.
The JUI-F district chief Qazi Fazlullah, Maulana Gul Rahim, Shakirullah, Shahid Mehmood and other workers while former MPA Muzafar Syed, Muhammad Rasool Khan, Sultanat Yar advocate, Malik Sher Bahadar, advocare Imranuddin of the JI were representing the delegations, official sources told. The visiting religious leaders had been invited to the festival in order to clarify minds of local people that there had been nothing against Islam and local norms and traditions, sources said, adding that not only they visited stalls but also enjoyed folk music and popular Khattak dance on the occasion. One of the JI leaders was allowed by Colonel Kamran Aslam, commandant Dir Scouts to set up a stall of the Al-Khidmat Foundation when he complained for not being contacted.
The Dir cultural and peace festival under high security arrangements would continue till May, 2 that aimed at to promote tourism and build people confidence for peace maintenance, said organizers. Number of visiting people including youth, children and women was increased on second day as compare to day first and the organizers were expecting arrival of more people from all parts of the Dir as time pass. On Sunday some ladies presented tableaus and dances while visitors enjoyed children entertainment as well.
The rise of militancy and the challenge posed to the writ of the state resulted in a military operation and disruption to the lives of the region’s residents. There have been reports since late 2007 that the Taliban have found many hideouts in Lower Dir. This was confirmed in April when the army acknowledged that the Taliban had dug themselves in on the mountain tops. The area known as Maidan, which is also the home town of radical cleric Sufi Mohammad who brokered the now-defunct Swat "peace deal", has become a Taliban hotspot in the district.
The army has twice claimed to have pushed the Taliban out of Lower Dir and taken control. But many people fear the militants may use Lower Dir to expand into nearby Upper Dir.