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LANDI KOTAL: The pine-covered hills of the picturesque Tirah valley resonated with loud music and national songs as the local youth danced to the tune of Attanr while elderly tribesmen clapped as the residents of the area celebrated Independence Day for the first time under official patronage.

The event was jointly organised by army and administration of the tribal district in Khujalkhel area of Bar Qambarkhel near Maidan Markaz.

Schoolchildren, both girls and boys, clad in traditional and national attires along with the entertainment starved local youth attended the event in a large number.

Their enthusiasm was unparallel as they glued to their positions in the laps of lush green surrounding hill for nearly five hours to witness and cheer every event organised on the day.

Music concerts held in Khyber for first time after elimination of militants

Children sung national songs, delivered speeches to highlight the importance of country’s independence and the youth participated in a number of competitive events, which exhibited their raw muscularity.

It was for the first time that music was played at a public place as the region witnessed restrictions imposed by extremist groups in the recent past.

Similar events were also organised in Jamrud and Landi Kotal tehsils where local administration provided protection and security to music concerts and fireworks on the night before August 14.

The historic Bab-i-Khyber in Jamrud was illuminated with lights in the colours of national flag while the administration also arranged for a grand fireworks show at the same site at midnight.

The local people said that observance of such events in the open was not a possibility only a few years ago due to fear of a backlash by extremist elements.

The biggest live music show was held at Takiya Markaz in Landi Kotal where young and elderly alike sat till late in the night and danced to the tune of popular Pashto numbers.

A sizable crowd gathered at Hamza Baba Complex to witness gymnastic show by schoolchildren, tug-of-war between khasadars and local teams, PT show and a marathon race. Separate shooting competitions were held in Landi Kotal, Jamrud and Bara.

Also on the day, the Lahore Qalandar cricket team of Pakistan Super League organised a talent hunt show at Jamrud Sports Complex where hundreds of the local players showed their cricketing skills and attracted the attention of selectors, including some current and former national team members.

Published in Dawn, August 16th, 2018