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More than 1,000 detained over Pakistan kite ban

By Staff
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LAHORE, Pakistan, Mar 13 (Reuters) Police in Pakistan's second city detained more than 1,000 people at the weekend for flying kites in defiance of a newly imposed ban on the popular traditional sport.

However, the vast majority of those detained in the city of Lahore during the annual kite-flying festival of Basant were released after brief appearances before magistrates and most were discharged, police spokesman Athar Ali Khan said.

The local government announced a ban on kite flying ahead of yesterday's festival to prevent deaths and injuries caused every year by metal and glass coated string that enthusiasts use to cut the string of rivals in aerial duels.

Kite flying is also opposed by Islamist groups and Mullahs who see it as a Hindu tradition and because gamblers often bet on the outcome of duels.

The provincial Chief Minister in Lahore had warned last week that offenders could be tried under anti-terrorism laws, but police said these were not invoked.

The kite-flying ban was largely ignored in Lahore despite a large police presence in the sprawling city to enforce it.

Police estimated about 500 people received minor injuries during the festival, some from sharp kite strings and others from stray bullets or pellets fired into the air to celebrate the festival.

There was one death, of a young man shot dead by another in an altercation over a kite duel -- compared with 19 reported last year.

Every year, Pakistani media report dozens of deaths and injuries caused by kite flying, mainly of children and motocyclists whose throats are sometimes cut by strings.

Lahore resident Khurram Ali said he was watching the kites yesterday from his rooftop when the sharp string of a falling kite wrapped around his neck causing a cut that needed seven stitches.

One of those arrested yesterday, Sadiq Shah, said he had only been watching the spectacle from his home.

''I was standing on the rooftop when police knocked the gate of our house. My mother opened it and they came upstairs and took me away.'' He said he was released because there was no trace on his hands to show he had been flying kites -- often kite-flyers' fingers have cuts or other marks left by sharp strings.

REUTERS SB ND1506

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