Punjab Excise Dept fails to regulate liquor sale

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–Liquor retailers in Faisalabad, Multan, Murree and Rawalpindi continue to flout legal requirements for purchasing alcohol

–ET&NC’s latest policy gives rise to bootlegging as permit holders are being refused premium liquor due to ‘shortage of supply’

 

LAHORE: The Punjab Excise Taxation and Narcotics Control (ET&NC) department has miserably failed in regulating liquor retailers in Faisalabad, Multan, Murree and Rawalpindi as they continue to flout the legal requirements for purchasing alcohol.

Under the law, only non-Muslim citizens and non-Muslim foreigners are permitted to purchase and consume liquor, conditional to the possession of a permit, which is only issued by ET&NC.

Only nine hotels in Punjab are authorised to sell liquor. Lahore’s Avari, Pearl Continental, Four Points by Sheraton and Ambassador; Rawalpindi’s Flashman’s and Pearl Continental; Murree’s Pearl Continental Bhurban and Ramada and Serena in Multan and Faisalabad, respectively, are the only hotels licenced to sell alcohol.

According to sources, liquor used to be sold openly at these nine hotels in the past and anyone, whether they were permit holders or non-permit holders, could purchase alcohol without any hassle. The only difference between the two was that the former would be given liquor at controlled rates whereas the latter would have to pay extra money to the management of permit rooms, sources added.

Sources also disclosed that things only started to change in June, when ET&NC began regulating the sale of alcohol and only allowed permit holders to purchase liquor. Interestingly, the sale of liquor was only regulated in Lahore whereas the hotels in other cities were free from scrutiny owing to the facilitation by the respective ETOs and other officials of those areas, sources added.

Moreover, they said that hotels in Lahore are facilitating bootlegging as they are refusing to sell premium liquor to permit holders, citing shortage of supply. “EN&NC’s latest policy is only facilitating illicit sale of alcohol and is giving rise to more bootleggers,” they added.

It is pertinent to mention here that officially two excise and taxation officers (ETO) should be deputed in two regions but former ETO Masood Bashir Warraich held both charges himself. However, he was later removed from his post due to some controversies and the charge was given to two new ETOs, Faisal Shehzad and Safeer Abbas Jappa.

But, sources claimed things did not improve after the appointment of the new ETOs. “These two officials are inexperienced in collecting revenue and the department appears to be focusing more on collection of property and commercial taxes than regulating liquor sale,” sources added.

When Pakistan Today asked ET&NC Director General Zahid Hussain about the difference in policy for Lahore and other cities, he said that while the policy is the same for all cities of Punjab, there may be differences in the way it is being implemented.

“Illicit sale of alcohol cannot continue without the involvement of ETOs and despite the denial of some officials, the department is currently investigating them because we want to curb corruption in the department,” he said.

“Revenue and regulation are mutually exclusive and if we go for regulation, we will have to compromise on revenue but we are willing to pay the price because the law is supreme and the minister and secretary too are in favour of regulation,” he added.

When asked about the performance of the newly-appointed ETOs in Lahore, he said that they are newcomers in the field, and we have to work with them. “I hold meetings with them regularly and I am hopeful they will learn soon,” he concluded.