MULTAN: The four-day desert rally is scheduled to begin on February 9. A stretch of over 100KM of the desert area in Rahim Yar Khan district, which formed a major portion of the Cholistan desert jeep rally’s track in the route circulated among registered participants, has now been excluded from the rally route apparently because of objections raised by houbara bustard hunters from Abu Dhabi.

Bahawalpur Commissioner Captain Saqib Zaffar, however, confirmed that the track had been changed. “There is a new track every year, so there is a completely new track this year as well,” he said.

Registered participants told media that they had been initially issued a route map which included the 100km stretch of the desert area but this portion of the track was removed a few days ago. The updated map detailing the new track has not yet been issued. Sources said that the decision was taken after some hunters from Abu Dhabi had raised objections. 

Punjab Tourism Corporation Regional Manager Ashar Iqbal expressed ignorance over the change in the rally track, saying that the track for previous years would be used for the stock category race and added further that hunters were not in the area in these days, so changing the route over their objections was out of the question.

Last year in October, the organisers had announced that the Feb 2017 rally would have a 450km-long route, spreading across Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan and Bahawalnagar districts.

The race track has two circular routes — the first is a 240km stretch, 100km of which lies in Rahim Yar Khan and 140km in Bahawalpur districts; the second is 253km long, 56km of which is located in Bahawalnagar and 197km in Bahawalpur.

“The track of the first circle has now been changed by removing a 100km-long route from Rahim Yar Khan district...the circle is now 210km long and the entire route is located in Bahawalpur district,” he said.