Gilgit Baltistan is all set to host its “first-ever” winter festival on Sunday in the picturesque Attabad and Ghulkin villages. It is hoped that it would help Pakistan compete in the Olympics.
“For the first time on a government level, coordinated and organised with public and private support this event is being organised in GB,” Chief Secretary Mohiuddin Wani told Aaj News. “Basically, we are promoting the GB dream to make it beautiful to show it to the world that you can equate it to the Alps of Europe.”
Hundred of athletes from different villages would take part in the seven-day event. They would be competing in skating, ice hockey, and ice curling.
This comes after similar events were organised on a local level in different villages where communities generate their funds for it. But, they have started getting sponsors over the last couple of years.
When asked about the investment and estimated revenue, Wani did not give any ballpark figure but said that it was in millions of rupees. The federal government has given expenditures to it in addition to the sponsorship.
“It is not about the revenue because it is a first big event and we are showcasing it on an international level. In order to build confidence, we have encouraged the people to come and participate in it.”
People from all age groups were participating in it, according to the chief secretary. He added that the district administration and police have been mobilised. The government has utilised local hospitality, along with the government set-up, for the arrangement of the athletes.
“It’s a mixed bag,” Wani said, adding that the idea was conceived, planned, and executed in “one month”.
The chief secretary went on to add that next year it would be a budgeted activity. The mega event comes at a time when a large number of people have been protesting against the GB administration, accusing them of illegal land-grabbing.
“When there is a picture of unrest from GB, whole of Pakistan and intelligentsia forward me and seeks comment. Now that these beautiful pictures and videos [of GB] are here so please also forward these and project Pakistan. It is your duty. If something good is happening in GB it should come down in Pakistan and abroad,” he said.
When Qadir Karim first took training ice-skating training in 2018 in Naltar, he thought about organising a similar event in his village Ghulkin. He thought it was not a big task as the things required were easy for him to manage. Later, he founded the Ghulkin Winter Club in the same year.
“We have set a goal to compete in the Olympics,” he told Aaj News. “We have the stamina to represent Pakistan on the international stage through this club and earn a good name for the country.” His club would also be looking after the arrangements in Ghulkin for the seven-day festival.
Ghulkin is part of Gojal, Hunza with an estimated population of 12,000.
Qadir, who has majored in tourism and hospitality management from the Karakoram International University, told this scribe. More than 900 athletes are enrolled with the club since its foundation five years ago. Every winter the club organises winter fest to train and keep youth engaged in healthy activities.
“After coming back to Ghulkin, I shared this idea with my father and family because I thought it was easy. We just needed an open field to make the ice rink,” he said. So, after the family’s consent, he used his family’s land for the purpose.
How the ice rink is made?
Below are the steps on how rinks are made in GB villages. It’s a local version of an international one
- You need an open field to make a rink which is not for cultivation
- Level it in order to store water
- Pour water as much it can absorb. It takes two days to fill the land
- Then again water is poured to form a layer
- It is fit for playing games when there is six inches of solid ice.
- Snowfall on the field readies the field
- It needs at least 10 days to get dry/solid
- The measure of the land is 100ft width and 180ft to 200ft height
- Note: Winds melt the ice rink
- The ground needs daily maintenance as it is cleaned and resurfacing (mopping through warm water) after the end of day’s play.
Ice polo (a game for children), ice hockey, speed skating, curling, and skate training are the main highlights of the seven-day event where locals also set up stalls.
This year, 12 teams (eight men and four female) took part in the event.
What was the purpose?
Karim told this scribe while explaining the purpose of starting the GWC, which trains youth and hosts events.
Firstly, it was organised with an aim to provide a platform to the interested and participating athletes to showcase their hidden talent.
Secondly, they wanted to earn scholarships for the students who have the potential and are sharp but could not meet the financial expenses.
Lastly, he hopes that the participants may get scholarships through these sports activities.
He added that the village has become home to children and teenagers from the neighbouring villages as well like, Gulmit, Shiskat, Kamaris, Hussaini and Passu.
The GB government has made a project where students can get loans after getting admission in any of the top universities in Pakistan. Being a sportsperson would be an added advantage.
“There will be free no lunch a person values if takes a loan,” the GB chief secretary said, adding that the government would send talented athletes for “training to Europe”. The government would patronise sponsorship from the state for them.
Ghulkin was the host of the National Ice Sports Championship 2022, which according to Karim was the major feat for the organisers.
“It was being organised for the first time. We have also the honour that we won the first ever female ice skating event,” he said, adding that the idea behind the event was also to promote winter tourism in the area.
According to Karim, the idea to give a chance to different entrepreneurs to set up stalls was well received by visitors.
Noorima Rehan, one of the participants, was of the view that the initiative was useful for the youth as it helped them in improving their skills.
“In the winter season, they not just continue their studies, take part in the games and polish their skills,” she told Pamir Times – a local news outlet – on the beginning of the event.