LAHORE, Dec 17: Police have advised the City District Government of Lahore to drop the idea of reviving Basant festival in February next year and refused to give a guarantee of prevention of casualties.
“We cannot give you a guarantee of human safety in case you decide to hold the event. So the plan should be dropped,” City Police DIG (Operations) Rai Tahir told the participants in a meeting of Dilkash Lahore Project sub-committee constituted to find out the possible solution to Basant issue.
The meeting, presided over by Khwaja Salman Rafique (adviser to chief minister on health), was attended by DCO Noorul Amin Mengal, political analyst Iftikhar Ahmad, Chief Traffic Officer Sohail Chaudhry, civil society activist Shaista Pervaiz Malik, Salima Hashmi, Badshahi Mosque Imam Dr Allama Khubair, Jamia Naeemia representative Maulana Raghib Naeemi, District Officer (special planning) Umme Laila, legal adviser Mian Iftikhar, Admin Officer (conducting) Tariq Zaman and others concerned.
The DIG was of the view that in case the CDGL decided to celebrate Basant, the situation would not only become hectic for police but also for other officials from the city district administration and its allied departments.
He also denied ensuring 100 per cent law enforcement, saying it was not possible for police officials to sideline all of their major assignments and keep chasing those violating the government’s Basant code.
Earlier, the participants gave their input about reviving the festival. Some of them were in favour of the festival and others were against it. “I think it will be better to start an extensive mass awareness campaign in order to develop public consensus on the issue. Through this way we can get feedback of the people and other stakeholders,” said Saleema Hashmi.
She lamented imposition of ban on Basant in the past. “It was the only activity in our city that every year created a feeling of freshness among the Lahorites as well as visitors from other cities and abroad.”
Saleema suggested setting up special booths for purchasing kites and string across the city localities in case of revival of the event.
Khwaja Salman Rafique while supporting the idea suggested involving the district administrations of Kasur and Sheikhupura.
“We also have to see whether or not police officers are willing to undertake responsibility of preventing possible causalities. If not, it will be difficult to organise the event.”
Shaista Pervaiz Malik sought involving the local kite flying and string manufacturing associations in the process in order to get their input and guarantee of elimination of metal string.
Noorul Amin Mengal told the participants about the possible actions, such as imposition of ban under section 144 on motorcycle riding, permission of kite flying in Walled City along the Ravi, farm houses and open places and crackdown on metal string manufacturers. He said the CDGL planned holding the event just for entertainment of the people subject to ensuring human safety first.
Iftikhar Ahmed suggested mobilising public representatives (MPAs, MNAs) on the issue.
Raghib Naeemi requested the participants to avoid holding the festival, saying it would affect the public at large.
CTO Sohail Chaudhry rejected the idea of imposing ban on motorcycle riding, saying it would be very difficult to stop around three million bikes in the city.
Allama Khubair sought holding the event peacefully by preventing possible casualties. “We will be against the event if the police do not give us guarantee in this regard.”
The participants finally agreed to put up the issue before project’s steering committee meeting scheduled to be held on Dec 22 under the chairmanship of Justice (retired) Khalilur Rehman Ramday.