An increased number of women participants was the highlight of this year’s Thal Jeep Rally
“The track is challenging as there are with repeated turns. It requires special focus and full attention while driving the vehicle, otherwise you risk losing control of your vehicle. I have learnt a lot but one thing is clear: women can do everything including driving in races on complex tracks”, says Dina Patel, who turned 18 four days before the sixth Thal Jeep Rally, 2021.
Patel belongs to a family of racers. Her father Ronnie Patel, her mother and her brother too participated in the rally. The Patel family has been taking part in car racing since 1979.
Dina this year had the honour of being the youngest racer of the rally. She was one of eight women racers out of 109 taking part in this year’s event. The women drivers included Myra Jabbar, Rubab Sultan, Palwasha Hayat Khan, Nida Wasti, Zulaykha Niazi and Rukshanda Janeen.
“I plan to form an International Automobile Federation to connect Pakistan worldwide in motor sports to highlight this image of Pakistan”, says her father, Ronnie Patel.
Tourism Development Corporation of Punjab organised this year’s event. Muzaffargarh and Layyah administration and police took care of the traffic management and security.
“The sixth Thal Jeep Rally has turned the desert into a place for excursion. It is not only a rally but also a cultural festival. That is what makes it attractive to our youth”, says car racing fan Azhar Gopang. He came from Rajanpur, travelling 167 kilometres, to enjoy the rally.
For this year’s rally, the track length was increased. It also had a greater participation by women. The length of the track increased from 105 to 195 kilometres this year - starting point at Changa Manga Tela in Muzaffargarh, mid break at Chaubara in Layyah district and the terminal at Changa Manga Tela.
In Prepared Category A, Zain Mahmood became the champion, covering the distance in 2 hours 8 minutes and 39 seconds. In Prepared Category B, Asad Khan Shadikhel won the first position completing the distance in 2 hours 23 minutes and 38 seconds. In Category C, Zaheer Hussein Shah won the first position in 2 hours 27 minutes and 35 seconds. In D category, Zafar Khan Baloch won the first position by finishing his track in 2 hours 30 minutes and 51 seconds.
In the Prepared Women’s Category, Tishna Patel emerged victorious by covering the distance at midpoint in1 hour 27 minutes and 13 seconds. Maham Sheraz came in second with 1 hour, 32 minutes and 9 seconds.
In the Stock A Category, Yasir Ahmed Ghani came first. He completed the race in 2 hours 25 minutes and 46 seconds. In this category, Aqeel Ahmed came second. He finished the distance in 2 hours 28 minutes and 58 seconds. Babrak Baloch clinched the third position by completing his drive in 2 hours 30 minutes and 40 seconds.
Tourism Development Corporation of Punjab officials say that Thal Jeep Rally is the only entertainment for the people of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan after the termination of Tharparkar Jeep Rally two years ago.
In B Category Sultan Bahadur came in first. He covered the distance in 2 hours 25 minutes and 57 seconds. Zubair Hayat won the first position in C Category with 2 hours 47 minutes and 15 seconds. In D Category Taj Khan came in first. He completed the distance in 2 hours 42 minutes and 42 seconds.
In Women’s Category, Palwasha Hayat stood first covering the distance in 1 hour 32 minutes and 34 seconds. The second position was claimed by Nida Wasti with 1 hourr 35 minutes and 46 seconds. Dina Patel took the third position by completing the distance in 1 hour 41 minutes.
Several racers from Sindh and Balochistan also participated in the event.
Speaking about the event, Seraiki writer Mazhar Nawaz Lashari said that the Sindh Sagar Doab, the area between rivers Jhelum and Sindh, has six districts. These include Thal Jeep Rally districts Layyah and Muzaffargarh as well as Mianwali, Chakwal, Khushab and Bhakkar
Social workers say the Thal Jeep Rally is an opportunity to revive the dying culture and traditions in the area.
Mahar Tufail Ahmed Lohanch, social worker in Layyah, says the desert waits for the arrival of Thal Jeep Rally the whole year because it invites hustle and bustle in the area and generates economic activity. “The desert culture is quite different from the rest of Seraiki culture. Camels are a key component in the winter festival activities besides the Jhumar. Thal Jeep Rally has revived these cultural activities”, Lohanch says.
Tourism Development Corporation of Punjab officials say that Thal Jeep Rally is the only entertainment for the people of the Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan after the termination of Tharparkar Jeep Rally two years before. The TDCP has been organising this event for the last six years in collaboration with the administration of Layyah, Muzaffargarh and Multan districts.
TDCP Regional Manager Ash’ar Iqbal Malik says, “Due to the overwhelming popularity of Cholistan Jeep Rally, there was a persistent demand by the people of Muzaffargarh and Layyah for a Jeep Rally in the unique landscape of the Thal desert. After due consideration, the Punjab government started organising the Thal Jeep Rally from district Muzaffargarh to Layyah in 2016. It has turned out to be a very successful event”.
Malik says the TDCP has increased the length of Thal Jeep Rally track this year from 180 kilometres to 195 kilometres in view of the greater participation and interest of the participants. The Muzaffargarh district administration prepared the route and the TDCP marked the rally tracks. Foolproof security arrangements were made for the three-day activities in the desert. The racers started from Changa Manga Teela in Muzaffargarh near Head Muhamamdwala and returned to the same point after turning round from Chaubara point where the winter festival was held. The rally turned from Chaubara back to Changa Mangta Teela in Muzaffargarh at the end of the rally. The Muzaffargarh district police and Rescue-1122 had established 14 security check posts along the rally route to provide emergency aid to racers.
Talking to The News on Sunday (TNS) Jeep Rally’s Layyah focal person Malik Orangzeb says that 14 types of programmes were presented in three days of Thal Jeep Rally and festival. The programmes included the flag hoisting ceremony, the inauguration of a cultural exhibition, stage performances by renowned artists and young talent, a volleyball match, a musical night on the first day of Thal Jeep Rally and a winter festival on November 26. There were horse dances, camel dances and some local theatres participated for the first time.
The cultural and stage performances, a tug of war, a kabaddi match, a Stock Category jeep race, fireworks and musical night the highlights of the second day (November 27). The cultural and stage performances, tent pegging, modified vehicles and women’s category race and award distributions and closing ceremonies were held on the third day on November 28, he said.
The organisers held a colorful winter cultural festival on the first day of the rally in Chaubara. The traditional Seraiki Jhumar was the most enchanting performance of the colourful winter festival. There were music concerts and poetry recitations as well. The songs sung with Jhumar evoke the right mood. The content of the songs varies but the Jhumar is a dance of ecstasy. Seraiki folk singers also performed in the festival’s musical night.
“A Seraiki cultural festival is a celebration of the traditions of people. Cultural events play a certain role in the development of an individual’s emotional, cognitive, social development; despite the individual peculiarities and differences of the participants, they strengthen the unity of the group members. Cultural events help people develop the skills of cooperation and communication”, Prof Dr Muzammil Hussein says.
The writer is The News bureau chief in Multan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org