RAWALPINDI: More than five years of pent-up frustration was released this week as the residents of the garrison city openly flouted an eight-year-old ban on kite-flying to celebrate the spring festival of Basant.
Despite efforts by police and the city’s administration, authorities were unable to stem the tide and rooftops across the city were filled with enthusiastic youngsters and kite-flyers who seemed determined to not let the limitations of the law hamper their efforts to have a good time.
In 2006, the Pervaiz Elahi-led Punjab government imposed a ban on the much-loved pastime after deaths due to the use of dangerous kitestring reached record numbers. The Supreme Court later endorsed the ban and ordered action against kite-string manufacturers and kite sellers.
Most people agree that kite-flying ban is overkill, suggest better regulation
But Friday’s defiant Basant celebrations, the first in well over five years, sparked a debate among most residents of Rawalpindi. Opinions were divided among those who saw the festival as something positive and those who opposed the irresponsibility that had become part and parcel of kite-flying in the years before it was banned.
Ahsan Ahmed, 27, from Naya Mohallah recalled that the Basant festival was an ancient sub continental tradition in the Punjab.
“In the past, Basant was always a welcoming of the spring season. String makers would set up shop on roadsides ahead of the festival and kite-makers would churn out different varieties of kites, such as like guddi, tukal, pari and dabba for night-flying. Strings had many varities like tandi, cotton string, chemical coated,” said Nadeem Malik, who lives near Raja Bazaar.
Kite-flying was also a highly competitive sport and rich patrons would often engage professionals to ensure victory in the skies. “Ustad Raffique and Allah Ditta were famous in Naya Mohalla, Bholla was the champion of Sabzi Mandi and there were many others whose services were hired for kite-flying matches,” he said.
Khurram Malik, a resident of College Road, said that the basant provided seasonal employment to a large number of people.
“Most people started their preparations in January. It was a small industry. The Kudi Kagaz (kite-making paper) was imported from abroad and kitestring would be imported from India and other countries,” he said.
“In the days of yore, the elite would descend on downtown Pindi to celebrate the festival in traditional style. This meant that most of the dilapidated houses in these areas would receive facelifts ahead of Basant.”
Dr Nadeem Omar Tarar, director of the National College of Arts’ Rawalpindi campus, told Dawn that people should allow to celebrate the Basant festival albeit with certain restrictions. “A ban should be imposed on firing into the air and chemical-coated kite-strings. Completely banning such a popular activity is not a solution,” he said.
However, former district nazim Raja Tariq Kiyyani and ex-MNA Shakeel Awan favoured the ban, saying that not only was kite-flying dangerous for children, but promoted a form of excess that was uncharacteristic of Islamic culture.
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