Cold Desert Jeep Rally Returns After COVID-19 BUT With What Arrangements? Security Matters Addressed with the Least Care – Tazeen Akhtar

Tazeen Akhtar
Pakistan has been bestowed with the most eye catching and worth visiting tourist sites in the world but how the corporate sector looks at the importance of the tourism potential can be estimated on that Secretary of tourism GB sent proposals for sponsorship of The fifth edition of Sarfaranga Cold Desert Rally to 300 companies and business groups but no one responded. This was amazing to know from Secretary Tourism Gilgit Baltistan the other day in his press conference. Reasons can be security, infrastructure and other administrative issues for sure. This scribe asked questions about these issues but no one from the government and private partners could give satisfactory answers.
Chief Executive Pak Wheels Suneel Sarfaraz, Secretary Tourism GB Asif Ullah Khan, Minister Tourism GB Ghulam Mohammad,  Corporation, Deputy Commissioner Shigar Wali Ullah Falahi responded to questions after their press conference organized at Serena Hotel Islamabad on 30 Sep 2023, in order to brief the national and international media about this event.Managing Director Pakistan Tourism Development Aftab Ur Rehman Rana was also present.
Pakistan has been marred with four consecutive big scale terror attacks in 3 provinces within 2 days of 29 Sep and 01 Oct. Mastung suicide blast in Balochistan, Zhob attack on military in Balochistan, Hangu Masjid suicide attack in PKP and Mianwali terrorist attack on Check Post. The other skirmishes in former tribal areas and martyrdom of military personnel is additional. This is the state of security in the country in which this rally has been organized.
In 2013, Ukrainian and Chinese mountaineers were killed by the terrorist at the base camp of Kay-2 in the same region. Most recently only a couple of weeks ago Gilgit city was in the grip of severe sectoral tension that could have been resulted in clashes but the community leaders and the administration controlled the situation luckily. Gilgit Baltistan have seen blood shed of the travelers coming back from Iran as well in the past.
Despite all above mentioned facts , All officials in the Press Conference claimed that Gilgit Baltistan is peaceful and there is no threat alert of terrorism. Astonishingly , the officials are depending upon the local community and recently raised boy scouts who can and should never be responsible for the peace keeping and security assurance at all.
To a question about the security of the participants and the guests, Secretary said that there is no threat in this area. GB is peaceful region. He added that local scouts have been raised and affiliated with Pakistan Boy Scouts Association. DC Shigar responded that local communities have been engaged in the activity. Minister said that Gilgit is the only city in Pakistan that has been declared peaceful.
Even a common person can see how naive are our officials. How they ignore the past incidents and how they can take relief from the responsibility by these answers. How boy scouts or local residents can keep eye on the terrorists and what they can do when God Forbid any attack is conducted. Anyone can tell that the boy scouts have this role in anywhere in the world?
Security is not about safety from terror attacks only. Security also means that the guests remain safe from accidents as well. No doubt hilly stations have attraction but accidents also do occur there frequently. We listen the news of tourist families who lose their lives in accidents. No officials shared any plan of medical arrangements there for any emergency treatment whatsoever.
No details have been shared on what are the rules and regulations of the rally? Is there any fee to participate in the event? What is the financial volume collected from the sponsors so far. The guests will reach there on their own or any special arrangement will be provided and many other questions have no answer. No detail printed form was available for the journalists. They were asked to download the information from the portal online that was not possible for most of the media person. That also gave rise to perception that the organizers do not want to share the details.
To another question about infrastructure, Secretary Tourism responded that the best possible infrastructure will be provided for the participants and the other guests and tourists. Serena, PC and Ramada Hotels have been opened there. Road is available. More facilities will also be provided.
Secretary was further asked that the question is not about the road, it is about other facilities like public toilets, residential options for low income people and provision of food on reasonable charges. But secretary again replied about the construction of the road to the desert. He did not responded to the reservations of the journalists that everyone can not stay at five star hotels.
The rally is starting from 6th October to 8th October 2023 in District Shighar of picturesque tourist attraction Gilgit Baltistan that welcomed one Million tourist in this year. Around 100 national racers under different categories will participate in the Sarfaranga Cold Desert Rally .The event is being organized by Tourism Department GB in partnership with Pak Wheels Dot Com. The event will also have polo, Zakh competitions cultural and other sports events and much more.
The title song “Sarfaranga Sarfaranga Lo Phir Sey Aaya Hay – Rang Branga Sarfaranga Her Dil Pe Chaaya Hay” was launched. The melodious song has been sung by renown local singer Salman Paras and music has been composed by Ali Mustafa.
Secretary Tourism Asifullah Khan said that Sarfa Ranga Cold Desert Rally is being organized as an annual calendar event since 2011 and this event is of great importance for the promotion of sports and adventure tourism in Pakistan. This year, the three-day Cold Desert Car Rally will continue from October 6 to October 8 and the track of the car rally has been made 80 km, more than 100 drivers and bikers of 10 categories are participating in the car rally. Women drivers are also participating in the Cold Desert Car Rally, the rally will also feature regional sports such as polo, boating, archery, zak and May Fung, among other cultural fairs and sports.
Sunil Sarfraz Manj, founder of Pak Wells, said that car racing enthusiasts and other tourists wait all year to participate in the Sarfa Ranga Cold Desert Rally. The hospitality of the people of Baltistan and the unique beauty and culture of the region add to the enjoyment of this event. This event will pave the way for international car racing competitions in Pakistan.
Speaking on the occasion, Deputy Commissioner Shagar Waliullah Falahi said that all arrangements have been finalized for the success of this event and the local community is also cooperating with the administration to make the event a success.

Provincial Minister for Tourism Ghulam Mohammad said that the Sarfa Ranga Cold Desert Rally will soon gain the status of a unique car race event at the global level and will attract the attention of adventure enthusiasts and fans from all over the world and nationally and internationally including Gilgit-Baltistan. Positive identity of Pakistan will be highlighted. He further said that the Gilgit-Baltistan government is trying to promote tourism activities and promote adventure sports so that the tourism and economy of the country will grow through healthy and recreational activities and the diverse culture of the region will also be recognized at the global level.
This site is 637 KM from Islamabad, 218 KM from Gilgit and only 17 KM from Skardu. The government of GB has constructed state of the art road to reach this destination.
Serena Hotels and Toyota Motors are the sponsor of the rally as they are always supporting this magnificent event at the only desert in the world situated above 7 Thousand meters in between the mountains.


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