–Official believes letter doesn’t hold much value as it is impossible to raid clubs like Gymkhana and Royal Palm
LAHORE: The Excise Taxation and Narcotics Control (ETNC) Department has issued warnings to almost 250 restaurants, clubs, and cafes, including Lahore Gymkhana Club and Royal Palm Golf and Country Club, regarding the sale and service of liquor on their premises, Pakistan Today has learnt.
“The ETNC Department is responsible for the regulation of excise-related matters as well as control of narcotics substance… [and is] empower[ed] the department to check and take cognizance of manufacturing, transportation, possession, sale, and consumption of liquor and other excisable articles at any place,” the department warned in a letter.
The letter further states, “Section 2 (j) and (I) of the Prohibition (Enforcement of Hadd) Order, 1979 defines the place/public place for the purpose of enforcement to the Law as under: “Place” includes a house, shed, enclosure, building, shop, tent, vehicle, vessel, and aircraft; “public place” means a street, road, thoroughfare, park, garden or other places to which the public have free access and includes a hotel, restaurant, motel, mess, and club, but does not include the residential room of a hotel in the occupation of some person.”
The letter also states, “In view of the above, any restaurant/café/club involved in the illegal sale, service or supply of liquor or any other intoxicating substance is punishable under the relevant provisions of the Prohibition (Enforcement of Hadd) Order, 1979.”
“Section 3 of Hadd Order is produced as ‘prohibition of manufacture, etc, of intoxicants: (1) subject to the provisions of clause (2) whoever (a) imports, exports, transports, manufactures or processes any intoxicant; or (b) bottles any intoxicant; or (c) sells or serves any intoxicant; or (d) allows any of the acts aforesaid upon premises owned by him or his immediate possession; shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and with whipping not exceeding thirty stripes, and shall also be liable to fine.”
The letter states, “In view of the foregoing, you are cautioned to ensure a strict vigilance and control on sale and purchase, storage, service or consumption of liquor within the premises of your business strictly in accordance with the provision of the Prohibition (Enforcement of Hadd) Order, 1979 and Rules and thereunder. If any person consumes liquor within your business premises, please immediately inform your concerned police station or the Excise and Taxation Officer Lahore.”
These restaurants came on the Excise Department’s radar for serving liquor to their guests, an excise official told Pakistan Today on the condition of anonymity.
“Most of the time the guests bring their liquor with them otherwise these cafes, clubs, and restaurants serve them.”
According to the official, the letter banning alcohol in places, such as the Royal Palm and Gymkhana Club, doesn’t hold much value as these are “frequented by the Lahori elite and it is impossible to raid them”.
“They are too influential and the department is not powerful enough to stop the practice. Despite receiving the letters, there is no change in these high-class clubs,” the official added.
The abrupt order hints that someone influential was behind this move.
Excise Zone A ETO Faisal Shehzad said, “We will raid these places in case they fail to comply with the orders. The precautionary measure was taken because we do not want to defame anyone. We have served the letters to more than 250 restaurants, cafes and clubs.”
Excise B ETO Safeer Abbas Jappa said the warning was issued on the directions of the excise secretary and director general.
“Some of the restaurants [that serve alcohol] are on our radar, but most of them have already stopped such practice,” he said.
However, to raid such places is purely within the excise department’s mandate and the teams would also “raid such places without any permission”.
“The purposes behind these raids are to stop the business of liquor, not to harass anyone,” he added.
Commenting on the excise letter, Lahore Gymkhana Chairman Kamran Lashari said, “There are no such activities in the premises of Lahore Gymkhana and this letter is irrelevant.”