Pakistan arrests 1,000 kite-flyers under terror laws

Pakistan has detained people for flying kites and warned they could be tried as terrorists after 10 people were killed in a week by strings coated with glass or made from metal.

india Updated: Mar 09, 2006 15:17 IST

Pakistan has detained 1,000 people for flying kites and warned they could be tried as terrorists after 10 people were killed in a week by strings coated with glass or made from metal.

Days ahead of an annual kite-flying festival in the eastern city of Lahore, -- the only 15 days of the year when the sport is permitted -- police were cracking down to stop more casualties.

"Those flying kites with metal wire, nylon string or dangerous cord will be tried under anti-terrorism laws," said Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, chief minister of Punjab province.

"We cannot allow people to play with the lives of ordinary citizens in the name of sports," he said.

The families of some victims burned kites at a street protest in Lahore on Tuesday, while political parties have demanded an outright ban on the popular pastime.

Revellers taking part in the Basant festival, which marks the start of the spring in Punjab, spend millions of rupees on day-and-night kite battles and the skies are filled with the brightly coloured toys.

Many people use strings coated with a paste containing glass powder or with iron wool to sever the strings of rival kites.

But the cords have also claimed the lives of 10 people, most of them children, police and newspapers said.

Most are killed when the strings fall across roads at head height and slit the throats of people on motorbikes.

Two people were burnt to death when a metal cord hit a live wire and sparked a fire in their Lahore home this week.

So far around 1,000 people had been detained for violating the ban on use of dangerous string, and police had seized large amounts of kite-flying material, senior police officer Aamir Zulfiqar said.

Pakistan's supreme court banned kites in 2005 amid complaints that they killed dozens of people every year.

The ban was lifted for 15 days this year at the request of the provincial government so the festival could go ahead, on condition that dangerous string was outlawed.

Fundamentalist groups also oppose kite-flying on the grounds that it is un-Islamic.

The Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan banned kites along with music and many other hobbies before US-led forces ousted the regime in late 2001.

First Published: Mar 09, 2006 15:17 IST