RAWALPINDI – Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif on Sunday repeated that space for terrorists and abettors in the country had been squeezed, while attending the Shandur Polo Festival in Chitral, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“Inshallah, the day is not far when our beloved homeland will be an icon of peace and seat of learning among the comity of nations”, said statement issued by the military’s media wing ISPR, which quoted the COAS.

The thrilling polo festival, which dates back to 1936, is not only enjoyed by locals, but also inland and foreign visitors.

He said operation Zarb-e-Azb, backed by the entire nation, was an endeavor towards lasting peace in the region. He added that the initiative would continue with determination and zeal in the entire country till achievement of its goal.

The holding of the festival is a good sign for the promotion of tourism at local as well as international level, the COAS said. “It’s a message to the terrorists that we continue to carry forward our traditions with all courage and

He added that this “colorful function is an omen to our country’s bright future and evident that we are heading to achieving prosperity and advancement.”

“Today, we are breathing in a free environment and this is only because of the countless sacrifices rendered by the people and armed forces of the country,” he said.

Referring to the hardships being faced by the people of Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan, the COAS said he was cognizant of the situation. The frequent occurrence of natural calamities adds a lot to the miseries of the local people, he said.

During all such trying times, he said it was a known fact that Pakistan Army and Frontier Corps with the help of medical practitioners had extended a helping hand to the local populace.

During recent floods, he said helicopters of the Pakistan Army had shifted the injured and marooned people to safer places besides establishing a number of relief camps to help mitigate their sufferings.

He said that the Frontier Works Organization, a logistical company run by the military, had also undertaken repair work at about 50 points, restoring vehicular traffic by rehabilitating important road links.

He made mention of the contributions by the Special Telecommunication Organisation (SCO) for providing uninterrupted telecom facilities.

He appreciated various organisations including Local Government Department for providing relief, rescue and rehabilitation services at the time of natural calamities in the area.

He felicitated the participating teams of Polo competition, organisers, Headquarters 11 Corps, Frontier Corps, Chitral Scouts, Civil Administration, Tourism Corporation, and other Law Enforcement Agencies for a successful holding of the festival.

The festival, now a global spectacle, attracts thousands of local and foreign tourists and is traditionally played between the teams of Gilgit and Chitral from July 7 to July 9.