Hundreds of youths flew kites from rooftops in the garrison city of Rawalpindi yesterday, celebrating an ancient colourful festival despite a ban imposed by authorities in 2007 following a spate of accidents.
Enthusiasts have in the past used acid-soaked string and piano wire in kite-fighting battles, causing terrible injuries to people caught by tangles across roads – including slitting the throats of motorcyclists.
Victorious participants and their supporters firing into the air can also cause death or injury when the rounds fall back to the ground.
The ban did not stop yesterday’s celebration of Basant, a kite festival that marks the arrival of spring.
“The festival isn’t worth a human life, but Pakistani youths don’t have too many options for entertainment,” said Raja Rameez, a 21-year-old pharmacist who invited dozens of friends to watch from his rooftop.
Hundreds of youths played cat and mouse with more than 1,500 police officers, who used binoculars and drones to try to spot the locations of the kite flyers.
Police said at least 220 people were arrested; offenders can be fined up to 100,000 rupees (around $570).
The eastern city of Lahore used to be the main centre for the Basant festival, drawing thousands of local and foreign tourists, with railways running special trains and hotels packed.
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