Kite flying has been banned for several years. The rules continue to be flouted.
Kite-flying, closely associated with Basant, a local festival in the Punjab, has been banned for several years following serious accidents resulting in loss of life and property in major cities. The debate around the desirability of relaxing the ban and the conditions of safe kite-flying has continued.
The Rawalpindi Kite Club has done its bit by announcing two separate events for Basant – one in the Cantonment Board area and the other in the city.
The cantonment and the city have always been apart in many ways. The contrast is stark as one moves past Chour Chowk into Cantt.
This year kite-lovers celebrated Basant in the cantonment on February 10 and 11 and in the city on February 17 and 18.
“There is no reason to ban Basant if traditional strings and kites are used. The problem arises when people use chemical-laced and metal strings and when some of them resort to firing in the air. If such practices are shunned, Basant poses little harm,” says Ali Raza Alvi, a TV anchor and kite enthusiast.
“While some of the hazards are real, others have been exaggerated by the media,” he says. A report about a girl falling off a rooftop while flying a kite has been circulating on the social media, leading to public outrage. “When the matter was investigated, it was found to have been an unrelated accident. Her parents told the police that it was not because of kite flying. But some people in the media hyped up the matter to attract an audience,” says Alvi.
Similarly, the injury a boy suffered during Basant celebrations was attributed to kite flying. SP Rana Wahab however tells The News on Sunday that it was an accident. “The injury is not related to kite flying,” he states.
“This is not to say that there have been no injuries related to kite flying. As many as 20 such cases have been reported. However, compared to 140 kite flying-related accidents last year, the city is much safer now”.
“This is not to say that there have been no injuries related to kite flying. As much as 20 such cases have been reported. However, compared to 140 kite flying-related accidents last year, the city has been much safer this year”, says SP Wahab. He rejects reports that kites and strings are being manufactured at Raja Bazaar.
“Our teams have stopped the transportation of kites and strings to Rawalpindi from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The kite industry is not banned in the KP. Kites are lawfully manufactured there and some f those supplied to consumers in the Punjab. We are in coordination with the KP police to put a stop to this,” he says.
According to Alvi, kite flying has not been a problem in Islamabad. In Rawalpindi, however, scores of people, most of them young, have been arrested for flouting the ban. “Yes, sometimes the police release people involved in not-so- serious violations after giving them a warning. Most of them are released by the courts,” he says.
Salahuddin Salarzai, a social media activist from Bajaur, tells The News on Sunday that there are two kite markets in Peshawar. He says some of the kite traders are even exporting kites and string. “But other than Peshawar, people do not fly kites in KP,” he says.
Sabir Sadri, a tire merchant of Afghan origin, says that kite flying was once a part of Afghan and Pashtoon culture. “But then the Taliban came. Under their regressive rule, all things associated with the joy of life ceased to exist in the Afghan society. Now no one flies a kite, sings a song or dances. The new generation does not even know about these things. The phenomenon has come to Pakistan as well. Even the people who make kites do not fly those. That is the irony,” he laments.
Ziaul Qamar, a media teacher from Rawalpindi, says that he still remembers the days when he used to fly kites from his rooftop. “Those were good days. But then we were robbed of this festival in the name of rules and regulations. What are the rules for if not for protecting human liberties?” he asks.
Ali Hassan, 11, looks at photos of his uncles flying kites and wants to do it too. However, his uncles cannot help him do that as the activity is banned now.
The writer teaches development support communication at International Islamic University Islamabad. Twitter: @HassanShehzadZ