The Basant Festival hails the start of spring. Kite-fliers in Lahore’s old town take to their rooftops and use strings coated with glass to cut the competition from the sky. Keep your head tilted skyward to glimpse the vibrant-coloured kites.
For those wanting to get a piece of the action, Lahore’s shops are full of kites, so you can pick one up and claim your slice of the sky.
The District Flying Association has announced Basant would be celebrated on February 20 and 21, a private TV channel reported on Sunday. Secretary Sheikh Salim, said Basant would be celebrated in pursuance of the safety measures planned by the government. Salim said kites would be available in the city from February 5 onwards. However, Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said the Punjab Assembly had not given permission for Basant celebrations.
THE City District Government Lahore (CDGL) is still waiting for the green signal of the Punjab government to allow celebration of Basant in the provincial capital as the event has already been celebrated in various cities of the province with traditional zeal and zest.
Sources in the City District Government Lahore (CDGL) claimed that all preparations have been done to announce the festival and the city government was just waiting for the final nod of the government. The sources said strict monitoring of the event was also planned by the CDGL to avoid injuries and loss of life and property at hands of kite lovers.
The sources in CDGL revealed that the Chief Secretary Punjab chaired a high level meeting here Sunday to discuss the issue of Basant. They said no final decision has so far been taken but the office-bearers of All Pakistan Kite Flying Association were of the view that the government was going to allow a two-day festivity.
They said Punjab Governor Salman Taseer had already expressed his approval for celebrating Basant. The sources revealed that All Pakistan Kite Flying Association (APKFA) secretary general has already submitted a written application to the CDGL for announcing a two day Basant festival in the provincial capital in the third week of March 2009.
The sources said the tentative dates, which the association wanted were March 14 and 15, 2009. The sources said the association has also requested the CDGL to lift the ongoing ban on the kite and twine-making in the provincial capital so that kites and twine making be started to ensure their smooth availability in the market before the festival. Following an increase in throat-slashing incidents due to thick and strong twines, Basant, which is known as the traditional festival of Lahore, was banned in 2005.
Dozens of youths as well as children were killed while many sustained serious injuries in the year 2005 and 2006. Police sources said about seven people including minor children were killed in the year 2007 due to throat-slashing incidents.
The colourful event of Basant also faced opposition from Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) and its distribution companies mainly the Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco) and Gujranwala Electric Power Company (Gepco) as kite flying also resulted in frequent power tripping besides damaging the sensitive installations of Wapda and its companies.
After the Apex Court banned sale and purchase of kites and twine, the Punjab government also banned the activity and started carrying out crackdowns on shops selling kites and twines as well as cases were also registered against kite flyers, kite and twine makers and sellers.
On the other hand, the kite lovers, despite various hardships continued to refute the ban and the festival of skies was celebrated in various cities of the province recently. The cities where Basant festival was celebrated officially included Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Multan, Islamabad, Quetta, Kasur, Pakpattan, Okara, Sheikhupura and Sharaqpur Sharif while the residents of Gujrat has announced to celebrate the festival on March 5 and 6, 2009. The sources said City District Governments of Rawalpindi and Sialkot wanted to follow the CDG Lahore.
Sheikh Saleem, Secretary General APKFA while talking with The News said that he has submitted a formal application to the government to allow Basant festival on March 14 and 15, 2009. Talking about the safety of human lives, he said the association has proposed to the government to not allow making, sale and use of think twine during the festival and strict action should be taken against the violators.
“Registration of sellers of kites and twine will be done through the APKFA, which will get affidavits from the license seekers to not sale and use think twine (more than 2 number),” he said. He further said that the association has also asked the government to ban use of twine on Charkhi and anyone using Charkhis would be handled strictly.
He said twine would only be used in its old method (Pina-round ball). Giving logic, he said twine makers used machines to wrap thick twine on Charkhi, which they cannot on a Pina manually. Besides this thick twine cannot be used in more quantity on Pina as it is used on Charkhi, he maintained and added that thick twine was the main cause of throat-slashing incidents. He also claimed that the APKFA has also suggested the government to not allow sale of kites bigger than 2-1/2 Tawa gudda and 5 Gith Patang. He said these sizes of kites did not need thick twine for flying.
He maintained that the association has also asked the CDGL to provide safety antennas to motorcyclists because it was the cheapest measure that could reduce throat-slashing incidents to zero. Besides, the government should also start a massive awareness campaign for kite flyers, parents, students, motorcyclists and general public regarding the safety measures on Basant festival.
He also urged the kite lovers to sacrifice use of thick twine and big kites if they wanted to save the culture and festival of Basant. He said parents should stop their children from flying kites with metal wires, which were the major cause for power failure and electricity tripping in the city.
On the other hand, Director General PHA Nadeem Aslam said that there was no official intimation to the authority as well as to him regarding the issue. DCO Lahore was not available for comments and as usual, he did not attend repeated calls on his cell phone (03008447950). The scribe also tried to contact Chief Secretary Punjab but he was also untraceable.