LAHORE: The game of hide-and-seek had been going on since long between kite and string manufacturers, kite flyers and the law enforcement agencies. Though the three parties in the game have different opinions and arguments, one thing is clear that bicyclists and motorcyclists are the prime victims of the sport.
The kite manufacturers had been claiming that they were being deprived of their livelihood, the fans of the sport claimed they were being deprived of an opportunity to celebrate a festival, while the government claimed it was a sport that has already claimed several lives.
Police had also failed in ensuring implementation of a complete ban on kite flying as deaths due to kite string were reported from different parts of the province, particularly, the capital.
In the most recent case, a Dolphin Force personnel was killed due to the killer string on Walton Road.
Police had been conducting raids in different areas but could not get fruitful results as the kite flyers vanish into the thin air before the operation and this incessant exercise continues. The same is the case with kite manufactures. Police arrest them, keep them in custody and then release them after a few days.
However, this time, a petitioner moved the Lahore High Court (LHC) seeking a legal cover to the kite flying sport. Petitioner Muhammad Amir Rafique challenged the Punjab Prohibition of Kite Flying (Amendment) Act 2009 in the court, requesting the government to take appropriate measures to make Basant a safe cultural festival.
He made respondent the government of Punjab through the chief secretary, secretary culture and secretary local government in his petition seeking directions for them (respondents) to acknowledge kite flying as a sport and incorporate the same in legislation.
He contended that being a fan of kite flying, he was associated with the sports-related activities. After the promulgation of the Punjab Prohibition of Kite Flying Ordinance 2001 which was amended by Punjab Prohibition of Kite Flying (Amendment) Act 2009 the sports and cultural activities of kite flying came to a halt.
The laws provide for a complete ban on kite flying, manufacturing and sale. However, the district government could allow kite flying for 15 days through a notification issued with the prior approval of the provincial government.
The petitioner maintained that the impugned laws have halted a massive economic activity and millions of people have been deprived of their livelihood with the enactment of the legislation. At the time of banning kite manufacturing and trade, there were about 150,000 workers in Lahore and about 180,000 workers in Gujranwala and Kasur districts associated with it.
Most of the labourers associated with kite-making were home-based workers and the kite manufacturing business was a large cottage industry.
As per surveys, about 18% of the home-based workers are kite-makers out of which, more than 90% of workers are women.
The ban rendered thousands of women and families jobless, it also impacted the other sectors such as bamboo, thread, glue and paper industries.
The scheme of prohibition or ban laid down in the impugned laws infringes the inalienable fundamental rights of the petitioner under Article 18 read with article 8 of the Constitution 1973 of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, he said. Article 18 of the constitution allows citizens to have a right to enter upon any lawful profession or occupation and to conduct any lawful trade or business, and any law which is inconsistent with the rights conferred by Chapter 1 of the Constitution shall to the extent of such inconsistency be void.
As a citizen of Pakistan, the petitioner is entitled to undertake the business of manufacturing and storage of kite, thread and other materials used in kite flying which right the petitioners have enjoyed for years, he stated. This right may be licenced, regulated, controlled but may not be banned nor denied to the petitioner under the Constitution of 1973, the petition added.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2020.