A horse dances to the drumbeat at the summer festival in Kalam.–Dawn Photo

MINGORA: The five days Swat Summer Festival opened here on Thursday at scenic Kalam valley to much fanfare. People came in droves to see the festival, which featured kite flying, paragliding, boating and other recreation activities.

Provincial Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti, who inaugurated the festival, while speaking on the occasion said that presence of thousands of people showed that common man believed peace had been restored in Swat.

He attributed Swat peace to sacrifices of security forces, police and people.

The chief minister said a few years ago, Swat was in the grip of militancy to the misery of locals but the army, police and people rendered great sacrifices to defeat militants and restore peace in the region.

He said the festival had been organised to give a message to local and foreign tourists that peace had returned to Swat and that they could show up without fear as their life would be secure.

Mr Hoti said the 2010 flashfloods washed away almost all bridges in Swat but locals and military personnel rebuilt them and destroyed roads.

“Now, tourists can visit each part of the valley without fear,” he said.

The chief minister said the people were proud of those who laid down their lives for their security.

He said work on Mingora-Fatehpur and Fatehpur-Kalam roads would begin shortly with the financial assistance of the federal government, Saudi Arabia and Asian Development Bank.

He said completion of hydropower projects in Mataltan and Dral Khwar areas would usher in a new era of prosperity and progress in Swat.

Mr Hoti said he had already approved Rs20 million grants for completion of the much-needed development schemes.

He said Kalam would soon be declared a ‘hard area’ to the benefit of government employees, who would get a special allowance evey month along with salary.

GOC Malakand Division Major General Ghulam Qamar, who was also in attendance, thanked the provincial government for helping security forces restore peace in the region.

He further added that the army with the collaboration of the provincial government had taken various steps to rebuild infrastructure damaged or destroyed by militants or floods, and revive tourism industry in Swat.

Major General Qamar said the army personnel rebuilt the road, which linked Kalam with Mahudhand, on emergency basis.

He said tourism revival would create better employment opportunities for locals and flourish hotel industry.

The GOC said a modern tourist resort would be established in Mahudhand area.

Provincial ministers Bashir Bilour and Ayub Khan, MPA Jaffar Shah and senior government officials also attended the function.

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