A senior leader of the PML-N, which is in power at the centre and in the province, has announced that Basant may be made a part of the Punjab Sports Festival 2014.

"We are seriously considering allowing kite-flying on a limited scale," said Hamza Shahbaz, son of Punjab Chief Minister Shabaz Sharif. Residents of Lahore, particularly kite-flyers and fans of the sport, welcomed the government's move.
"Kite-flying, an integral part of Basant, can be allowed on an experimental basis in a limited area like Chhanga Manga forest to the southwest of Lahore and Jallo Park to the northeast of the city," Shahbaz said.
Basant was banned in 2005 after the glass-coated twine used to fly kites caused several deaths and serious injuries in congested neighbourhoods of Lahore. Usually motorcyclists would fall prey to twine dangling between buildings and electricity poles.
However, civil society groups have said the ban was influenced by pressure from right-wing groups which claim the festival has "Hindu overtones".

Shahbaz said that the reservations of some people about deaths related to kite-flying would have to be allayed before the revival of the festival, which is usually held at the end of February. Motorcycle riding may be banned for 24 hours during the festival, he said.
His comments came soon after Pakistan People's Party leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari announced plans to celebrate Basant in the port city of Karachi in February.

The Pakistan Kite-flying Association has been demanding the lifting of the ban on Basant in Punjab, saying it has affected scores of people who makes kites, twines and other equipment used during the festival.

"Sports lovers should not be deprived of the opportunity to celebrate the popular festival and the country should not lose an event that had started generating huge foreign exchange and was providing employment to thousands of people," said Muhammad Salim, an official of the association.
If the government eases the ban, preparations for Basant in Lahore will start months before the event, which won global recognition and attracted overseas Pakistanis who travelled to the country with their friends to celebrate the festival.

Special dishes are prepared and festivities are organized at night on floodlit rooftops, where people dance to the beat of drums amid chants of "Bo kata", a cry used to mark the cutting of the twine of a rival's kite.

In the past, large numbers of foreigners, including Indians, would visit Lahore to participate in the festival.


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