COMMENT – Bringing Basant back from the dead


LAHORE – Some days ago, Nawaz Sharif constituted a committee consisting of some of his own party men and renowned socialite and cultural arts promoter Mian Yousaf Salahuddin to finalise proposals for celebrating the spring season, popularly known as the Jashan-e-Bahara’n and the kite-flying festival of Basant. This can be seen as an attempt to revive the identity, which had faded in recent years.
It is amazing that since entering politics in 1981, Nawaz has never openly supported Basant. It is amazing that a man who claims to be a popular leader nationwide or precisely Punjab, could not promote cultural activities, which highlight Punjabi or precisely the Lahori culture. When one sits down to analyse the fact that what factors prompted Nawaz to portray himself as a person favouring Basant and other spring festivals, a reality instantly strikes the mind, that Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer is no more.
Ever since becoming governor in May 2008, Taseer had always been a vocal supporter of Basant and other spring season festivals. Portraying himself as a true Punjabi and Lahori, Taseer never missed a chance to promote Basant and other cultural events and was even ready to challenge his arch-rivals sitting in the Punjab government in this regard. In 2009 and 2010, the late governor had vowed to celebrate Basant at the Governor’s House.
After seeing Taseer’s ambitions, the Punjab government had announced to arrest him, without fearing for the consequences despite the fact that the governor has a constitutional community and no one could even think of arresting the constitutional head of the province. When Taseer wanted to celebrate Basant and promote Punjabi and Lahori culture, the Punjab government run by Nawaz’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had vowed to arrest him. But now, that the party head has decided to constitute a committee for celebrating Basant, what would the Punjab government do remains to be seen.
Why didn’t Nawaz constitute a committee when Taseer wanted Basant to be held? Why didn’t the Punjab government opt for an alternative plan to celebrate Basant when metal wires were used for flying kites? Why didn’t the Punjab government allow people to celebrate other spring season festivals if Basant was so dangerous to be celebrated? Why didn’t the Punjab government promote true Punjabi and Lahori if it claims to be representing a population of 80 million? All these questions raise issues which should have been addressed on time.
Now that Nawaz has come forward and decided to deliberate on proposals to celebrate Basant, one hopes he would not back off. We hope that the committee he has constituted does not become a routine matter and comes forward with something concrete on the issue they are deliberating upon. First of all, an operation may be launched against manufacturers and sellers of metal wires, which play with lives of innocent people. Most of them are located in the Walled City and local police must have information about them.
If the Punjab government still thinks that it is too dangerous to allow kite-flying, then it should promote other spring season festivals such as cultural events at different parks and open places, which offer traditional Punjabi dishes and other delicacies. The Lahore Fort and other historical places could also be used for celebrating spring festivals. Horse and cattle shows may be regularly organised and the traditional Punjabi culture of oxen race may also be promoted.
One can only hope that the Punjab government will do something in this regard so that by the promotion of Punjabi culture, extremist ideologies may be tackled.