There was a time when there were 62 cinema halls in Lahore and similarly many in all other big and small towns. Till 1965 Indian films were also imported officially. After 1965 war Indian films were banned. Then came the era of VCR and there was an influx of Indian films available on rent very cheaply. Film was the most popular entertainment for the middle and lower classes. Later VCR was replaced by CD players and at last internet and availability of flicks online proved the last nail in Pakistan’s cinema industry.
The other very popular entertainment was kite flying particularly in Punjab and specially in Lahore. The festival of Basant used to be celebrated by all rich and poor alike. Lot of people used to come to Lahore even from abroad on this occasion. Then, kite and string sellers, for earning more profit, started importing the chemical dor (string) which was responsible for few accidents of killing and injuring people especially motorcycle riders. The government instead of checking the buting and selling of the dangerous dor decided to ban kite flying, a traditionally popular sport that would involve the all classes of the society. The rulers did not realise the importance of entertainment for a peaceful and healthy society.
Balochistan has been a trouble spot soon after independence. Military action was taken there in 1947-48 then by General Ayub Khan and by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s governments. I had a chance of meeting the leaders of Baluchistan Liberation Army in Quetta when they invited human rights activists for a dinner. I tried to convince them that whenever a group or a party takes up arms against a government, whether good or bad, they have to face military action by the State. I also tried to convince Bhutto’s Establishment through some ministers and PPP leaders to give cricket bats, hockey sticks and tennis rackets racquets in the hands of youth instead of fire arms. Now there are no cinema halls, no opportunities for tourism for the deprived classes and no proper play grounds.
The Punjab is now facing the same situation where space for sports and entertainments is getting narrow day by day. It is the place where the sport of kite flying is treated as a criminal act. It is a centuries old cultural tradition. As for few accidents are concerned, that can could be avoided if the police and administration properly check the sale of chemical and metallic strings for kite flying. And as for the accidents are concerned, there are accidents of rickshaws, motorcycles, cars, trains and planes also. If use of these means is not banned then why to ban an entertainment good for deprived classes?? Allow them to be happy for few days!!!