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April 9, 2020

Lockdown rescues Karachiites from firecrackers’ bang on Shab-e-Barat

Karachi

April 9, 2020

Although the night of Shaban 14, Shab-e-Barat, is for connecting with God, for many children and even adults, the night for all the wrong reasons has been a recreational occasion for several years, in which almost every area of the city would echo with loud explosions of firecrackers continuously disturbing all those who wanted to pray at their houses and mosques.

Every year, the government would announce that it would not tolerate explosions of firecrackers on Shab-e-Barat and impose the Section 144 to ban the sale and use of explosives for the holy night, but such a ban would never be implemented and the entire city would reverberate with the bang of firecrackers.

This year, however, it is the coronavirus pandemic that has achieved what the governments failed to accomplish for many years as for a large number of people, the Shab-e-Barat on the night between Wednesday and Thursday turned out to be the first Shab-e-Barat of their lives in which they were able to pray for the whole night without being disturbed by the loud explosions.

A legal business

In the times when a majority of the industries face financial crisis due to the countrywide lockdown in connection with the novel coronavirus, the industry of firecrackers is no exception. There are around half-a-dozen licence-holder dealers of firecrackers in various parts of Karachi including the Malir, Old Golimar, Landhi, Orangi Town, Ancholi and Numaish Chowrangi areas.

Fortunately or unfortunately, they all have suffered a major blow to their business this year due to the pandemic as they used to import ready-made firecrackers or chemicals used in their production from China, which they failed to do so this year as a consequence of the COVID-19 outbreak in the neighbouring country.

“The novel coronavirus had hit China before Pakistan so this year we were unable to import firecrackers and chemicals from China,” explained one of the dealers who requested anonymity. “This came through the Afghan-Transit Trade to Pakistan’s Peshawar, Faisalabad and Lahore cities before reaching Karachi.”

Another dealer told The News that as firecrackers and chemicals could not be imported from China this year, the dealers were able to purchase the stuff from parts of Pakistan on the black market. “I booked the stuff worth Rs7 million from Faisalabad on the black market but as the supply has been closed, it could not be delivered to me in Karachi,” he explained. “This coronavirus affected not only me but also hundreds of those to whom I supply firecrackers.”

There are around 45 kinds of firecrackers being used in Karachi and a majority of them come from China. A few of such items like Phooljhari (sparkler), Anar and Machis bomb are locally made in Karachi.

A one-day business

The lockdown has not only affected the business of the dealers but also hundreds of local vendors who wait for the whole year just for one night. People from all ages are involved in the firecracker business for Shab-e-Barat. Their business starts and continues only on Shab-e-Barat and a few days before it but it is quite profitable.

“Already we are facing so many crises due to the lockdown. This was the only hope for getting out from the crises but unfortunately it could not happen,” says a local vendor of firecrackers. “Those who have had last year’s stock with them are also unable to sell it due to the tightened security around the city.”

Earlier, the use of firecrackers on Shab-e-Barat had also evolved into a competitive game in some parts of the city like Ancholi and Malir where groups of people would compete with each other regarding the number and intensity of their firecrackers. “We enjoyed the whole day and night using firecrackers,” says a resident of Ancholi. “We held competitions and those who would have more firecrackers would win the competition but unfortunately, when we are already in too much stress due to the virus, the unavailability of firecrackers has aggravated our stress.”