Dir Upper gains sports momentum

By AZ Aamir

Dir Upper is a potentially volatile district of Malakand division, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It is situated at an altitude and offers unimaginable natural beauty. The town of Dir is the district headquarters. Around a decade ago when I visited Dir Upper it had no such facilities for sports. However now Dir Stadium, located at Dir Khas, has been immensely upgraded and more facilities are being added to it.

It has a fitness gym, equipped with precious imported training machines. It offers facilities for cricket, day-night football, martial arts, badminton, basketball, volleyball and several other disciplines. A squash court is also being established. The ex-district nazim Sahibzada Faseehullah, provincial government, KP Director General Sports Asfandyar Khattak and ex-DG Junaid Khan and the energetic District Sports Officer (DSO) Mukhtiar Hussain have played a key role in the infrastructure development.

In order to cope with load-shedding the venue is powered by a powerful generator. Under the patronage of Mukhtiar Hussain, also a former Abbottabad Region cricket team manager, effort has been made to work on hockey and 12 clubs have already been launched. Similarly, a handful of martial arts clubs have also been initiated. Dir Upper is proud to have produced potentially solid taekwondo fighters Jamiullah and Murtaza who recently featured in a G-II event in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Cricket has been very popular in the district. The area has produced some fine cricketers like young allrounder Kamran Ghulam and Salman Saeed, both first-class cricketers.

“Since taking charge as DSO I have been working hard to manage maximum sports facilities for the youth of my district,” Mukhtiar Hussain told thecricketplus.com in an interview.

“Around Rs200million has been spent so far on infrastructure development. Several other facilities are in pipeline. We are also trying to manage five mats which will cater to the need of martial arts,” Mukhtiar said. “I am thankful to the provincial government, especially KP DG Sports Asfandyar Khattak, KP Ex-DG Sports Junaid Khan and former district Nazim Sahibzada Faseehullah who contributed a lot in providing sports facilities to the budding talent of the scenic valley,” Mukhtiar said.

“As per the provincial government’s infrastructure development policy we have identified 12 areas in the district for establishing sports facilities. And six of them have already been approved and the PC-1 has been submitted,” said Mukhtiar, also a former secretary of Dir Upper District Cricket Association. 

The district, having one million population, also boasts for producing a solid shuttler Jamal who represents Army badminton team at the domestic level. In near future Dir, Barawal, Kalkot, Wari and Larjani will be equipped with sports facilities. Women, despite living in a religiously rigorous culture, feature in various sports events while observing pardah. Every school is being provided with sports equipment so that female could also express themselves in sports.

Kumrat festival is also one of the glaring features of sports and cultural tourism of the district which was once under a thick cloud of terrorism.

Mukhtiar is also mulling an option to hold regular training camps of various disciplines under the supervision of highly experienced coaches on constant basis in the district. He said that it will not only help the athletes to master their skills but it will also help the district to prepare its own coaches for future use. The roads leading to Dir Upper, which is also connected with Chitral district through a 10.5 kilometre lowari tunnel, have been made much better. This facilitates the athletes to move with ease to other places within the district or outside the district for competitions. “Roads are now much better and the lowari tunnel has reduced the distance between Dir Upper and Chitral,” said Mukhtiar, who has also done Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB)  physical fitness (level-1) course.

Mukhtiar also appreciated the passion of Dir Upper Deputy Commissioner Khalid Iqbal Khattak. “He is young but more supportive,” Mukhtiar said.