LAHORE: After some back and forth over the issue, the Punjab government has decided not to allow the celebration of Basant this year, acknowledging that it is not fully prepared to make the event a safe activity in terms of the threat to human life and the damage to civic infrastructure that have occurred in the past.
The government plans to develop well-thought-out legislation to check violations that may cause a threat to lives and property both, so that the event can be marked safely.
The provincial government was on Thursday (today) supposed to submit its reply to the Lahore High Court on a petition challenging its decision on whether to allow the celebration of the spring festival.
Much more work needed to ensure safety, committee decides
The Punjab government announced last month that it had decided in principle to revive the historic cultural festival of Basant after a hiatus of about 10 years. The celebration was banned by the previous PML-N government after many deaths were caused by glass-coated kite string.
The announcement was made by Punjab Information Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan, who also informed the media that an eight-member committee was being formed to suggest ways and means to deal with the fallout of the cultural event.
The committee, headed by senior minister Aleem Khan and including the provincial law minister, administrative secretaries as well as the commissioner and deputy commissioner, was thrashing out details to allow the observance of Basant in February. But the provincial government later took the stance that no decision had yet been taken, pending the committee’s recommendations; this was conveyed to the LHC by the government law officer.
On Wednesday, the senior minister chaired a committee meeting and decided that much had to be achieved in terms of law enforcement before Basant celebrations could be allowed.
In the wake of safety concerns for the general public, the senior minister said that the government needed to equip itself to dealing with the holding of the event in a peaceful and safe environment, so that there was no threat to the public, or civic issues such as the disruption of or damage to the power supply infrastructure.
He directed that all relevant departments, as well as the district administration, should prepare themselves to hold the cultural event next year. In the meanwhile, the committee decided, the government would register all the manufacturers of twine and/or kite string to ensure that every roll carries upon it labels identifying the manufacturer and their details.
The committee also agreed that the Punjab Assembly should legislate on the subject and enhance the punishments and fines for violations of the guidelines that have in the past caused threat to human lives and property.
“At least four to six months are required for proper preparations to hold Basant in a peaceful and safe environment,” senior minister Aleem Khan said.
“If the departments concerned and the district administration do their work properly, such activities can be held for the promotion of a soft image of Pakistan, besides boosting business activities in the country,” he added.
Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2019