Kites haunt police as deaths continue despite ban

LAHORE – A father of four children and a three-year-old girl were killed and several others wounded in separate incidents in Lahore last week despite the ban on kite flying.

The more the police are reporting casualties the quicker the cops are being replaced from key positions to cool down public anger. This policy of punishing the police for failure to stop kite flying is virtually demoralizing the terror-hit law enforcement agency.

As per the government’s policy, in case of any injury or death in kite-flying incident the concerned station house officer, sub-divisional police officer (DSP), and even the divisional police officer (SP) are held responsible. And they are immediately suspended from service.  The chief minister’s action against police officers over deaths reported in kite flying has triggered a debate among the law enforcement agency. Some police officers rejected this policy stating that the departmental or legal action against policemen would not be helpful in controlling kite-flying related deaths.

Many people simply defy the police crackdown and fly kites to welcome the spring season across the Punjab province. The non-stop clampdown on violators by police has also failed to stop manufacturing and selling of kites and other material in town.

The latest victims were killed in Lahore when glass-coated string of stray kites slashed their throats on city roads. They were traveling on motorbikes when the incidents took place in Sabzazar and Millat Park police areas respectively.

Early this month, a father of four children died shortly after a stray string slit his throat open near Multan Chungi in the limits of Sabzazar police precincts. Rescue workers said that another man, who was riding on the same bike, also wounded in the incident and he was shifted to a hospital in serious condition.

The deceased identified as 37-year-old Farooq Subhani, riding on a motorcycle along with his brother Arshad was going towards Scheme More when the chemical-coated twine of a stray kite slit his throat open near Mandi bus stop.

As a result, both the motorcyclists fell on the road instantly. Subhani was rushed to a nearby hospital but expired in the way. Rescue workers said that Arshad also sustained serious injuries and he was shifted to a hospital by local police.

Punjab police inspector general Arif Nawaz Khan took notice of the death caused by kite-flying and ordered the city police chief to send back a detailed report of the incident within 24 hours. Two days later, Punjab Police chief Arif Nawaz suspended from service SP Sadar Division Faisal Shahzad over the death due to kite twine in the Sabzazar police limits. The SHO and DSP of the area were also suspended from service over negligence.

A three-year-old girl was killed in a similar incident near Chowk Yateem Khana on Saturday. Mahrukh was sitting on the oil-tank of a motorbike along with her father Waseem Abbas when a stray string got entangled around her neck and sliced through her blood vessels.

As a result, motorcyclist Waseem, his wife and two children fell on the Multan Road. The passersby responded immediately and shifted the injured to the Samanabad Hospital. This was the second death, in a week, caused by sharp kite string.

The DSP Samanabad and SHO Millat Park were suspended from service. Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif has also ordered an inquiry into the girl’s death. The CM took notice of the incident and sought a report from Lahore CCPO Lahore.

Shehbaz Sharif said that despite the ban such incidents of kite flying are extremely sorrowful. He also directed the authorities to take legal action against the persons responsible.

In early February, CM Shehbaz Sharif took notice of the death of a 20-year-old biker, whose throat was slit by a kite string in the Neekapur area of Sialkot.

The chief minister expressed grief and sorrow over the incident sought a report from the Sialkot DPO. On the orders of the chief minister, DSP and SHO of the Neekapur police station were also suspended. The chief minister said the ban on kite-flying should be implemented strictly.

In the Punjab province, the throat injuries by glass-laced twine are not rare. But the deaths being reported by police this year are worrisome.

Despite complete ban on kite flying, at least three people have been killed and several others are injured in such accidents across the province this month. In 2009, three children died while over 50 other people mostly kids were injured in the kite-flying festival of Basant celebrated under official patronage in the metropolis.

In 2005, Pakistan’s Supreme Court had banned the spring festival over a number of deaths caused by the use of sharp and glass coated strings. The festival of kite-flying was completely banned across the province.

The provincial authorities had banned the festival after massive deaths (mostly of children) shook the society in addition to financial losses in 2007. The Lahore High Court later dismissed a petition challenging the Prohibition of Kite-Flying Ordinance and seeking permission to celebrate Basant. The ordinance was promulgated in 2007 after several people became victims of sharp twine used for flying kites. “The kite-flying ordinance ensures the safety of lives and property of people,” the court had observed.

Every year during the spring, kite-flyers play hide and seek with the law enforcers in Lahore and other big cities. Arrests are made and people are booked and sent to jail. Young men defy police crackdowns as the government has failed to fully control the production and sale of kites and other material.

In December 2016, some media reports suggested that the government was considering lifting the decade-long ban on kite flying in the provincial metropolis. The Punjab government quickly denied the reports stating that nobody would be allowed to celebrate the Basant festival.

According to official figures, at least 18 people were killed and 24 others injured in incidents related to kite flying during 2006-09. Wapda faced a loss of Rs5 billion, while damage to its grid stations was Rs57 million during the same period.

On the other hand, the association of kite-flyers says that Basant has been a festival that helped attract a good number of foreigners to Lahore in the past. Even it had left behind major festivals like Eid festivals as far as the festivity was concerned, they say.



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