RAWALPINDI: The garrison city echoed with sounds of gunfire as people celebrated Basant, ignoring a government ban on Friday.
Kite flying and celebratory firing caused injuries to 47 people, including five women and a two-year-old girl, after stray bullets and pellets hit them.
On the other hand, police arrested 450 people on charges of violating the ban on kite flying and firing in the air. Of the 450 people, 298 FIRs were registered with Rawal Division, 140 with Potohar Division and the remaining cases with Saddar Division police.
City Police Officer (CPO) Mohammad Ahsan Younas told Dawn that those arrested would be charged for firing in the air on the complaints of those who sustained bullet injuries so that they could be brought to justice.
He said one of the arrested men was firing in the air with a Kalashnikov from inside his locked house adjacent to the District Headquarters (DHQ) Hospital.
50 people arrested on charges of violating ban on kite flying, firing in the air
According to hospital sources, two of the injured who were operated upon after bullets hit them in the head were stated to be in critical condition. More injured poured in the three government hospitals even after sunset.
Two-year-old Aysha Bibi was brought to the DHQ Hospital with a bullet injury. Arbab Qasim, a resident of Rawal Town, was hospitalised after a stray bullet hit her in the leg in Chah Sultan.
She was taken to Benazir Bhutto Hospital where she was stated to be in stable condition.
Rukhsana Bibi, Balqees Begum, Adnan Ibrar, Noman Sattar, residents of Ratta Amral, were hospitalised with bullet injuries while Naseer Ahmed, Salman Akhtar, Nadia Aftab, Hameed, Abdul Wahab, Ayesha Bibi, Gul Saeed, Natasha and Farrukh Irshad of Waris Khan and Banni areas were taken to the DHQ Hospital with bullet injuries.
Moreover, Haji Amjad of Dhoke Ratta was injured critically after a stray bullet hit him in the head. He was operated upon at the DHQ Hospital and his condition was stated to be critical.
Of the 47 injured, 18 were treated at the DHQ Hospital, 10 shifted to Benazir Bhutto Hospital while 19 were being treated at the Holy Family Hospital.
On the other hand, the police claimed to have launched a crackdown against firing in the air, kite flyers and sellers and arrested more than 200 people.
Though the provincial government imposed the ban on kite flying, most people continued to fly kites on their rooftops.
Children could also be seen running on roads and in the streets while carrying sticks and bamboos to catch stray kites. In some areas, traffic jams occurred when children started running on roads.
After failing to stop people from celebrating Basant, police deployed its personnel on roads to keep an eye on children. In order to keep motorcyclists safe from twine cuts, the police and traffic wardens placed barriers on both sides of the flyovers at Chandni Chowk and 6th Road, barring the entry of motorcyclists.
Deputy Commissioner retired Capt Anwarul Haq told Dawn that it was the duty of the police to implement the ban and the district administration had no role in it. However, he said the district administration was planning to allocate a ground where people could fly kites.
“Though the police do their best to arrest the kite sellers for violating the ban, due to celebration of Basant by a large number of people it was difficult for them (police) to control,” he said and added that the police and traffic police adopted safety measures for motorcyclists and pedestrians.
PTI Punjab north additional general secretary and former MPA Arif Abbasi said: “We are not against Basant as it is a healthy activity but people should not create problems for others in the name of a festival.”
However, mostly people said the ban should be implemented on kite flying as it was dangerous for children.
Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2020