The Basant festival brings a springtime buzz to eastern Pakistan and its regional capital, Lahore. Officials usually relax a ban on the pastime imposed to prevent abandoned strings that are often covered with crushed glass from slitting people’s throats.
But the festival has been canceled this year amid tensions spawned by terrorist attacks and the country’s rocky return to democracy after years of military rule.
Sohail Janjua, a city government spokesman, said the festival was first postponed due to national mourning for assassinated ex-leader Benazir Bhutto, then because of Feb. 18 parliamentary elections.
Lahore has suffered three suicide attacks since, including two that killed 27 people on March 11, resulting in increased concerns about security.
“How can we ignore the deaths of innocent people to celebrate anything?” Janjua said.
In the past, the city’s youth have sent thousands of brightly colored kites into the sky during the festival, held on a weekend in February or March. Basant means yellow in Hindi, a reference to the mustard flowers that blossom in the region in early spring.
Crowds of Lahoris typically clamber onto rooftops to watch. Well-heeled guests from around the country and beyond pack city hotels for a few days of late-night festivities. Continue reading