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Residents of Pindi celebrate Basant despite ban on kite flying

Residents of Pindi celebrate Basant despite ban on kite flying

RAWALPINDI: Despite a ban on kite flying, the residents of Rawalpindi took advantage of the clear skies and celebrated Basant. The sky was speckled with colourful kites and gunshots could be heard every now and then, including from sensitive areas, such as around the Benazir Bhutto International Airport.

Locals from downtown Rawalpindi had wanted to celebrate Basant last week, but could not because of the recent spells of rain. They certainly were not stopped by the government’s ban on kite flying and on the sale of kite flying material.

“Kites are not sold openly in shops and most people sell them from their homes,” Abdur Rehman, a resident of Sarafa Bazaar said.

He said those who wanted to celebrate Basant knew where to get their kites from.

“The prices of kites and strings have increased due to the ban on them. The string is available for between Rs500 and Rs1,000 per 100 metres and a kite is sold for Rs40 or Rs50 each,” he said.

A local of Allahabad, Mohammad Umair, said kites were sold at Raja Bazaar and its adjoining areas. He said to avoid being caught, people buy many kites and lots of strings and then sell them on to their neighbours and friends so they don’t have to make a trip.

During the celebrations, some of those who participated sustained cuts from chemical coated strings and others were taken to the hospital when they fell from their roofs.

Deputy medical superintendent (DMS) at the District Headquarters Hospital Dr Mohammad Ashraf said 12 patients were treated at the hospital for minor cuts from strings and were discharged and nine people were treated for bullet injuries.

The DMS at the Benazir Bhutto Hospital, Dr Mohammad Zafar, said many of the patients who came in to be treated for injuries sustained while flying kites were reluctant to say so for fear they might have to face legal consequences.

Conflicting reports emerged about whether the police were keeping an eye on violations of the ban on kite flying and firing in the air. Some reports suggest the police were only making announcements, reminding people of the ban when they could see them flying kites nearby. Other reports indicated that the police were actively checking for violations of the ban but could not make any arrests.

The emergency police service received many calls from concerned residents complaining about gunfire and saying they were afraid the bullets would cause harm. A police official deployed at the BBH hospital said: “Gunshots could be heard in the wards of BBH, DHQ, Holy Family Hospital and the Rawalpindi Institute of Cardiology.”

Firing into the air created panic among the residents but the police were doing nothing about it, said Shujaat Haider Naqvi, the PPP city chapter spokesperson.

He said though he was not in favour of putting a ban on kite flying, the police should have kept a check on firing in the air and the use of chemical coated strings and that those who were involved in such activities should be held accountable.

“Young people should be able to celebrate Basant if they want to and they should not be made to give up the right to celebrate because of the government’s failure to control the sale of chemical coated string,” he said.

Talking to Dawn, PTI leader Zahid Kazmi said putting a ban on Basant is nonsensical and that the provincial government should not stop people from celebrating if they want to.

He said many of the incidents where people had fallen off their roofs had happened because the police raided low income areas and people wanted to avoid being caught flying a kite.

If a ground was set aside for kite flying on Basant in Islamabad, the same should be done for Rawalpindi, he said.

Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2016

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