MITHI: The four-day “Thar and Parkar Festival” kick-started amid tight security here on Friday, featuring various cultural and sports events such as camel and horse races, musical concert and exhibition of local handmade handicrafts and embroidery.

Sindh Minister for Culture and Tourism Syed Sardar Shah, who formally inaugurated the festival at Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Audito­rium, said that such events would greatly help in driving away the ‘ghosts of communal disharmony’ from the area.

Mr Shah said that followers of Sufis would foil nefarious designs of extremists and terrorists, who had struck at the heart of Sindh by unleashing violence at the Qalan­dar’s shrine, through dancing and singing and urged the general public, members of civil society and media persons to highlight positive aspects of the region to help encourage tourism in the area.

He said the Sindh government had organised the mega event to highlight culture, customs, traditions, hospitality, heritage and other beautiful features of the desert, which still had much to offer despite devastating droughts. It could rightly be called an open museum of nature, he said.

He said the PPP government was determined to promote culture and tourism in the province, particularly in areas like Moenjodaro and Thar. The festival would show the other, more beautiful facet of the desert which had hitherto remained hidden as the region was only known for its disasters and subsequent deaths of infants, he said.

He said the Sindh government wanted to change the destiny of Thari people by launching big projects in the region. Thar had produced many artists and singers like the legendary Mai Bhagi, Ustad Sadiq Faqeer, Murad Faqeer and Mohen Bhagat who taught communal harmony and peace throughout the world, he said. He said the Sindh government was committed to serving singers and artists who were assets of the province.

MPA Dost Mohammad Rahim­oon said the festival would provide a forum to people to showcase their rich culture and traditions for the entire world to see. The credit went to PPP leadership and Sindh government for improving the standard of people’s lived in the arid zone, he said.

Local singers Pancho Pakistani, Nizakat Sadiq Faqeer, Rajab Faqeer, Arif Faqeer, Nehal Nimano and others entertained the audience while prominent poets from Thar and other areas of Sindh including Saindad Sand, Piyaro Shivani, Khalil Kumbhar, Partab Shivani, Bharumal Amrani, Shahab Nohrio, Dileep Doshi Lohano, Bilawal Otho, Haji Sand and others read out their poetry at the festival. Mr Shah later inaugurated the Folk Music Academy established by known local singer Karim Faqeer.

Originally published in Dawn, March 18th, 2017.