HARIPUR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan inaugurated the two-day Khanpur Festival during a daylong visit to the district on Saturday.
The opening ceremony was attended by a large number of tourists, including foreigners. The festival is taking place on the banks on the Khanpur dam.
Mr Mahmood, who is the first chief minister to visit the area in three decades, was warmly welcomed by the residents. Scores of schoolchildren showed up to greet him.
A large number of stalls, including famous blood red oranges of the area, local handicraft, bookstall and food, were also put up at the festival to attract tourists.
The residents enthusiastically welcomed visitors and said higher tourist arrivals in the region would increase economic opportunities for them.
CM opens two-day festival
The chief minister said he would ask Prime Minister Imran Khan to order the handing over of the Khanpur dam from Wapda to the province for use as a tourist site.
He said the provincial government would observe the Khanpur Festival as other major tourist events, which would increase economic opportunities for the locals.
Mr Mahmood said the PTI government was striving to promote tourism in the country and it was the government’s efforts, which had led to Pakistan becoming the top tourist destination globally.
He said the government had set up a tourism authority in the province for the promotion of tourism, while integrated tourism zones were being established. The chief minister said he also wanted the area’s potential for religious tourism to be exploited.
Federal minister for power Omar Ayub Khan, who was also in attendance, welcomed Mr Mahmood to the area and said Khanpur was dotted with the region’s rich history spanning over thousands of years.
He said the large Sleeping Buddha statute was located at Bhamala site near the Khanpur dam, while the neighbouring areas extending up to Taxila had remains of Gandhara civilisation in large numbers. The minister said tourism promotion in the region could lead to the creation of large-scale job opportunities.
Local MPA Arshad Ayub Khan said the Khanpur dam attracted around 30,000 tourists annually but bad roads hampered the promotion of tourism in the area.
Tayyab Mehmood, who does boat business in the dam, told Dawn that he had taken Wapda to the court for trying to ban his boats in the lake over pollution.
He said he was hopeful that the local lawmakers would take up the matter with the chief minister to protect his business.
Handicraft businesswoman Maryam Sultana said the Khanpur Festival offered a huge opportunity to her and others to show own crafts to visitors from other parts of the country. She said she had been putting up stalls in the festival for several years.
Dutch tourist Ariana said she was impressed with the area’s beauty and felt privileged to be there. She said Khanpur’s lake and weather were amazing and she was really enjoying her visit to area.
The tourist said she would recommend other people to visit the province. The chief minister also inaugurated work on the 35km Kohala Bala Road, which will cost Rs2.32 billion and benefit people of 55 villages. He also opened the construction of a girls’ degree college in Khanpur to be completed in two years at the cost of Rs83.7 million.
The chief minister also inaugurated work on Rescue 1122 building to be completed in 18 months at the cost of Rs39.6 million and construction of the Tehsil Complex Khanpur at the cost of Rs139.09 million.
He also addressed a large public meeting in Tarnawah area.
Published in Dawn, February 16th, 2020