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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 June, 2003, 15:35 GMT 16:35 UK
Pakistan tackles killer kites
By Shahid Malik
BBC correspondent in Lahore

Kite flying in Lahore
Kite flyers try to cut their opponent's string in "dog fights"
Kite flyers in Pakistan's Punjab Province will face murder charges and a possible death penalty if their sharpened strings cause more deaths.

Several people have had their throats cut this year by strings that are either metallic or coated with abrasive materials.

Police throughout the province have now been instructed to treat such deaths as murder cases.

Kite flyers use metallic strings or coat them with glass shards to take part in "dog fights" where the objective is to cut their opponent's string.

The Punjab chief minister's adviser on law and human rights, Rana Ejaz Ahmad Khan, announced the move on Tuesday.

Mr Khan said dangerous kite flying practices had forced the government to take this extreme measure.

Some of the victims were young children, he said.

Basant festival

Mr Khan said the government had the authority to count chemically-finished and metallic strings as offensive weapons.

Police have been instructed to carry out raids on shops selling banned strings and make arrests, Mr Khan said.

Kite flying reaches its climax during the Basant festival at the beginning of spring but is a popular pastime all year round.

The kites pose a particular threat to motorcyclists and pedestrians in busy residential areas and have also been known to cause power cuts by interfering with electricity lines.

People have also been killed or injured falling from buildings or by walking into the paths of cars while flying kites or gazing at them in the sky.

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