Pakistan imposes kite flying ban after strings laced with glass powder murder children

Authorities in Lahore have banned kite flying after strings strengthened with glass powder killed seven people, including two children, ahead of an annual festival, a government statement said.

The ban was announced late Thursday three days after a stray string covered with a glass powder paste slit the throat of a four-year-old boy as he passed through an upscale neighborhood on his father's motorcycle.

Some kite fliers reinforce their strings with wire or ground glass so that they can duel against other kites. When strings cross in the congested sky, the winner cuts loose the opponent's kite.

The bleeding boy, Shayan Ahamad, collapsed and died in the lap of his father before he could be taken to hospital.

The tragedy brought the death toll from such incidents to seven in the past two weeks. Politicians and human rights activists had been calling for a ban on a kite-flying festival planned for Sunday.

The provincial government in Lahore announced Thursday night that the ban on kite-flying took effect immediately.

Police arrested 74 people Friday, including 22 shop owners, for selling or flying kites after the ban was announced, Lahore police chief Amir Zulifquar said.

He said police would not allow anyone to violate the ban, despite the festival planned for the weekend.

The festival, Basant, marks the arrival of spring, and during the two days of festivities the sky is covered with thousands of kites.

However, the use of dangerous strings has turned the centuries-old pastime into a deadly sport.

The majority of Lahorites, including Ahmad's father Mohammed Rizwan, welcomed the ban.

"I saw my son dying helplessly," Rizwan told The Associated Press. "My son's death has ruined my life."

Tufail Ahmad, 35, a resident in the Shadman Colony neighborhood of Lahore also praised the government for banning the sport. "It should have been done much earlier," he said.

Of 10 Lahore residents asked by The Associated Press, only one opposed the ban, arguing that the government should designate parks for kite-flying instead of imposing a province-wide ban.

All seven people killed recently were riding on motorcycles, says the Lahore police chief, Khwaja Khalid Farooq.

"We are doing our best to control the sale and manufacturing of glass and chemical coated strings. We have arrested 1,100 people since March 5 for selling or using prohibited material in the kite flying," he added, reports the AP.

D.M.

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Author`s name: Editorial Team