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Spring Awakening?

by Benazir Shah
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Arif Ali—AFP

Arif Ali—AFP

The Punjab government is considering reviving the Basant festival from next year.

The Punjab government is considering a proposal to revive the Basant kite flying festival, nine years after the PMLN-led government banned it.

Earlier this month, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif constituted a seven-member committee to compile suggestions for the safe conduct of the kite flying festival. According to documents available with Newsweek, the committee has been directed to come up “with well considered proposals for the revival of safe Basant” and with “examining these proposals in the light of its touristic potential.”

The officials appointed to the committee held their first meeting last week and have been directed to submit a final report within two weeks.

“One proposal we are considering,” says Khawaja Saeed Wains, a member of the committee and president of the All Pakistan Kite Flying Association, “is to impose a fine and seven year imprisonment for those found violating our safety manuals, which means using unsafe strings or metal wires.”

According to some estimates, Basant generated economic activity of over Rs. 1.75 billion in provincial capital Lahore alone. Upward to 1,000,000 people were laid off from the informal kite-making sector when the festival was nixed.

If the chief minister approves the proposed reforms, says Wains, the festival could resume as early as the second week of February 2017.

The two-day Basant festival, which traditionally signals the arrival of spring, was first banned in 2005. Two years later, the province passed the Punjab Prohibition of Kite Flying Act, effectively outlawing the manufacturing, selling and trading of paper kites.

Under this legislation, violators could be fined up to Rs. 100,000 and/or imprisoned for up to 3 years. The law followed reports that several people, including children, were injured or killed due to chemical-laced twine used by some participants of the festival.

Pointing to its economic impact and mass appeal, civil society activists have attempted several times to revive the event but have largely proven unsuccessful.

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