London, Jan 30: The Pakistan Army, in a bid to persuade a skeptical public that it has got the better of the Taliban and that life in South Waziristan is improving, has invited car enthusiasts to hold a motor rally on a 130 km route in the region in the last week of March.
The race will start outside the agency and pass through various key locations, including the town of the Kotkai, a former Taliban-controlled town where militants once trained child suicide bombers until the army retook the area amid heavy fighting in the summer of 2009, reports the Guardian.
Organisers hope about 50 cars and their back-up vehicles will take part in the race.
So far just a handful of car enthusiasts have signed up. One of them is Asad Marwat, president of the Islamabad Jeep Club.
The army insists that South Waziristan is safe and ready to open up for business – or at least the small portion of it that has benefited from near-saturation coverage by Pakistani troops.
Critics say peace has been achieved at the expense of the people of the area, particularly members of the Mehsud tribe, who were forced to leave South Waziristan when operations to clear the Taliban were launched in 2009.
The army has tried to persuade some of the displaced people to return to their villages but they have been either very reluctant or bitterly disappointed by what authorities had provided for them when they did return.
Others believe the massive military presence in places such as Kotkai has displaced civilian institutions that are supposed to run local affairs. None of the civilian officials have any knowledge of the planned motor rally.
The government has been trying to revive tourism in the area, although the ski resort hotel blown up militants has yet to be repaired. (ANI)