LAHORE - Once there was a time when nobody could even think of eating, drinking, or smoking at a public place during fasting hours in the holy month of Ramazan. Unfortunately, now the violation of ‘Ehtram-e-Ramazan Ordinance’ is emerging as a fashion among the people.
Cooked and baked food items are available in abundance everywhere as roadside stalls, canteens, and even general stores remain open during the fasting hours. From cigarettes to bread and fast-food to fruits, everything is available in the markets during this time. Virtually, there is no one to check the violators of Ehtiram-e-Ramazan Ordinance 1981 in the provincial metropolis as many food outlets are operating at public places during fasting hours.
Ehtram-e-Ramazan Ordinance was passed in 1981 under the rule of former military dictator Gen Zia-ul-Haq and has since been in effect without amendments. The law states that “no person who according to the tenets of Islam is under obligation to fast shall eat, drink or smoke in a public place during fasting hours in the month of Ramazan.”
The police and district administration are helpless to launch a large-scale crackdown against the violators due to one or another reason. The authorities are either not interested in taking strict action against the violators or they are themselves part of the problem.
Sometimes, the government bodies take action only against the poor to show ‘satisfactory performance’ for the record but they are helpless to stop people eating and drinking inside cars and at food points in the posh localities. There are several eateries in the posh areas like Johar Town, Gulberg, DHA, and Model Town which are serving people food indoors with free home delivery. Three such eateries in the Lahore’s posh areas were raided by the police a couple of days. The policemen were told that they were serving food indoors, so there is no question of violation of Ehtram-e-Ramazan Ordinance.
Most interestingly, many of the food outlets start serving cooked and baked items soon after noon. Fruit shops begin selling fruits in the morning and the business continues till late night. Hence buying and eating food items during fasting hours is no more a problems for the violators of the Ordinance.
A police official said that they raided two coffee shops in Gulberg and Ghalib Market and found the two eateries serving lunch and hi-tea to the people including some foreigners. The management of the eateries were told to shut down in observance of the Ordinance and warned of action if they continued to violate the law.
“As many as 17 people were sent behind the bars for violating Ehtram-e-Ramazan Ordinance in Lahore last week,” a spokesperson for the City district government said. According to him, special teams were constituted to conduct raids on the hotels and restaurants to nab the violators of Ehtram-e-Ramazan Ordinance. These teams raided the Chaudhry hotel at Railways Road while Mai Da hotel and Ravi hotel at Ravi Road. They arrested 17 persons for violating the ordinance and sent them to jail.
Official sources revealed that it was the first action taken by the City district government against the violators since the start of the holy month, which is considered as merely paperwork to maintain performance.
Under the ordinance, all cinema houses, theatres, and similar establishments or institutions shall remain closed during the month of Ramazan from the time of sunset to the expiration of three hours thereafter. If the proprietor, manager, servant, or other person in charge of a cinema house, theatre, or a similar establishment or institution contravenes the provisions, he would be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with a fine which may extend to Rs500 or with both. Section four of the ordinance says that exemptions shall apply in respect of a canteen or kitchen maintained at a hospital for serving food to patients, a restaurant or canteen within the premises of a railway station, airport, seaport or bus stand, or in a train or aircraft, a kitchen or the dining car of a train, or a kitchen or canteen meant for children within the premises of a primary school.