Another year without Basant

Published: March 5, 2013

The last Basant to be officially celebrated in the country was in 2006. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

In a country where terrorist groups can operate freely without government action, kite-flying is considered a bridge too far. As spring approaches, for the sixth year in a row, Basant will not be celebrated in Pakistan. The original ban, imposed by the then nazim of Lahore, was only meant to last for three months but the cause was then taken up by the Supreme Court. Even then, kite-flying was only banned till the government started regulating the industry to minimise deaths associated with the activity. The ban was lifted for 15 days in 2006, but further deaths made that the last Basant to be officially celebrated in the country. Chances of a revival are slim to non-existent in the near future.

The ban on kite-flying is symptomatic of a government that prefers quick, superficial fixes. When it is unable to prevent terrorist attacks, the government bans cell phone services despite the extreme inconvenience it causes to the people. In the case of kite-flying, all that is needed is to ban the use of chemically — or metallically — strengthened strings and then everybody can go back to celebrating Basant. There will always be those who break the rules but this is true of every activity. Just because some people drive dangerously or under the influence of banned substances does not mean that the government should ban cars.

Basant is not just a tradition that is a part of our history, it is also an engine of economic activity. Lahore, during Basant season, used to become a tourist haven with visitors from all over the world visiting the city. The ban has cost the city billions of rupees, money we did not have to lose had the courts shown more common sense and the government carried out its regulatory duties. On top of this, those who manufactured and sold kites were suddenly told that they were no longer allowed to earn a living. The obvious solution is to deal with those who use unsafe kites rather than imposing a blanket ban on kite-flying. Basant should be brought back this year to bring some joy to our beleaguered lives.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 5th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Baig
    Mar 5, 2013 - 11:25PM

    What’s more important, children’s life or some Kite flying junkie’s little fun? I’ll leave that for the people to decide. When these people don’t care about someone’s life why should the Government?

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  • BlackJack
    Mar 6, 2013 - 1:13AM

    @Baig:
    If parents don’t want their kids to fly kites, they will not buy them kites. Apart from restricting sale of chemically coated manjha, there is nothing else the Govt has to do as far as regulating the festival is concerned. Your ridiculous comment makes it appear as if Basant is a festival designed to kill little children – then why do you think it is celebrated in India, do parents not love their children over there?

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  • A2Z
    Mar 6, 2013 - 4:45AM

    @BlackJack
    The problem is not chemically coated manjha which can harm the children but the use of extremely sharp glass which cuts the throats of those who are not even involved in kite flying. People are making fun of others’ lives so they should face the ban. Govt can make the law, police can enforce the law to some extent but people should respect the law which is unfortunately rare in our country.

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  • Afaaq
    Mar 6, 2013 - 4:48AM

    We are a country facing destruction. People are being killed on a daily basis, yet we are crying over flying kites? Shows where our priorities lie. Basant has proven time and time again to be a waste of money and more importantly lives.

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  • Usman Lateef
    Mar 6, 2013 - 11:13AM

    The only entertainment we had….

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  • Tayyab
    Mar 6, 2013 - 1:43PM

    “all that is needed is to ban the use of chemically — or metallically — strengthened strings”

    Gov made the efforts, it was possible to control chemically strengthened strings but almost impossible to control metallic ones (all it takes is to buy a strip of metallic wire from any hardware store) which cause major damage to people as well as electric infrastructure.

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  • Asif
    Mar 10, 2013 - 3:38AM

    Afaaq, you say people die everyday, so why worry about kites. Well we’re already doing all we can about the deaths, which unfortunately is very little, so why shouldn’t we seek a little pleasure. Kite flying is an essential Pakistani pastime. People complain about deaths, but the fact of the matter is that these deaths are simply a symptom of the lack of significant repercussions for breaking the law, look at India, people still fly kites there. All we need is a little regulation at dor makers, perhaps jail those who use chemicals, and force them to intentionally weaken the glass dor or face fines. As for metal dors, simply show they won’t be tolerated, and jail anyone caught using them.

    As for Baig’s argument, he’s committing a fallacy.Kite flying isn’t a life or death matter, it isn’t choose either kite flying or some young children’s lives, the fact of the matter is kite flying without death is easily achievable, it just requires some regulation, as for it being a waste of money, it creates jobs, is relatively cheap, especially as kites are reusable by whomever catches them, and unlike video games or television kites aren’t western, but a traditional pastime. It is not only a way of having fun, but is a cherished tradition, and part of what makes us Pakistanis.

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