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Tuesday April 23, 2024

Basant blues

This decision was taken in wake of countless deaths and injuries caused during kite-flying events

By Editorial Board
March 01, 2024
Pakistani kite flyers fly kites at a park in Islamabad. — AFP/ File
Pakistani kite flyers fly kites at a park in Islamabad. — AFP/ File

Kite flying or Basant once used to be a soulful festival in Pakistan, a fun-filled activity for families. While Punjab celebrated the cultural event on a large scale, people in other parts of the country would enjoy kite flying in whatever way they could. Basant used to mark the beginning of spring, waving goodbye to the cold period of winter. All of this ended in 2007 when authorities imposed a ban on kite flying in Punjab. This decision was taken in the wake of countless deaths and injuries caused during kite-flying events. Several factors were responsible for turning the sport into a deadly event. People flying kites on their rooftops would often fall, resulting in fatal injuries. One of the main reasons behind the dangers associated with Basant was the use of dangerous kite strings often laced with chemicals that would end up slitting the throats of people including children. In 2019, Pakistani authorities decided to lift the ban on kite flying, releasing the people involved in the business of manufacturing and distributing kites from the economic chokehold they were in. But the decision was taken back as soon as it was announced.

While the ban is still in place, three years away from completing its 20th anniversary, some people manage to hold kite flying events at their homes. But this evasion does not guarantee them the safety required to play such a sport. Last week, 37 people were injured in Rawalpindi in several kite-flying-related incidents. At least 260 people were arrested for either selling or flying the kites. These knee-jerk reactions are not the way to handle the situation. This year, the UAE held a 24-hour Basant event in Dubai, showing that there are ways the sport could be held without putting people’s lives in danger.

Pakistani authorities have a problematic way of dealing with dangerous things. Instead of taking a nuanced approach to tackling challenges, they insist on placing a blanket ban on things, leaving no room for discussions or improvements. Basant has been an important cultural event in Pakistan – something that has the potential to make Pakistan a must-visit place during this season. Blanket bans are a cowardly way of doing things, and there are more chances of people defying the ban, resulting in more problems, including people’s lack of disclosure about the cause of injuries fearing police prosecution. What could have been a great way of boosting the country’s economy has been shut down without making any efforts to make the sport safer. The government can start by taking action against those responsible for using dangerous chemicals in string manufacturing, and ensuring that all distributors and sellers are selling government-approved string. People in high-rise buildings should be allowed to hold the festival if proper security measures are in place. These measures are not extraordinary, and following them is easy for most individuals.