RE - Much to their delight and pleasure, the Punjab Assembly members who gathered here on Monday to attend 32nd session of the Assembly after a long break of around two months; found an out of the ordinary 'stuff in the House to 'freshen their minds.
The Mondays Assembly question hour was on the Excise and Taxation Department which also regulates sale of liquor in the province. It was like Mirza Ghalibs verse, 'Zikrr us pariwush ka aur phir bayaan apna (the mention of that fairy [beautiful lady] and my narration of her exquisiteness); as members took great delight in asking questions pertaining to sale, consumption and regulation of liquor. Only two questions on the said topic liquor consumed much of the time of the question hour. The House also took up two other questions of a different nature, but the time involved in asking and answering these hardly lasted for 10 minutes.
PPPs Hassan Murtaza had asked a question entailing names of the hotels allowed to sell liquor, the reasons for such permission, the monthly quota of supplies and action taken by the government against hotel owners selling the commodity in violation of rules.
Nausheer Khan Langrial, Maj (R) Zulfiqar Gondal, Ehsanul Haq Naulatia and Col Sajid Navid of PPP put supplementary questions compelling the minister to go into unnecessary details about the drink.
Minister for Excise and Taxation, Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman told the House that only four hotels in the City, which include: Pearl Continental, Avari, Holiday Inn and Ambassador, have the permission to sell liquor only to non-Muslim Pakistanis and the foreigners under a license called L-2. Three Assistant Excise and Taxation officers have been appointed to check the sale of this commodity in these hotels, he added.
PPPs Javid Ahmad drew ministers attention towards sale of liquor at Royal Palm and Country Club and Lahore Gymkhana Club without the requisite permission. The minister said that it was not in his knowledge.
Upon this, Deputy Speaker Rana Mashhood asked the minister to take action against the managements of these clubs since it had now been brought to his knowledge.
If the police can raid the abodes of poor for any illegal sale or consumption of the commodity, why your department can not initiate action against the well-to-do who sell it without any permission, he asked.
The chair also directed the minister to take action against the management of Royal Palm and Lahore Gymkhana for providing liquor to customers without any license. He also asked the minister to brief the House about the action his department had taken against the culprits in the coming days.
Sheikh Alauddin of PML-Q forward bloc pointed out contradiction in the verbal answer given by the minister and the written one.
In response to a supplementary question, the worthy minister had earlier told the House that Excise department took action against managements of the hotels keeping less quality of the liquor than officially allowed to them.
The written answer, however, said that there was no limit [minimum or maximum] fixed for sale of the liquor in these hotels. Finding no answer to the question, the minister beat about the bush to conceal his embarrassment.
Minority MPAs, Engineer Saleem, Tahir Khalil Sindu and Najmi Saleem lodged protest over repeated mention of the minorities in connection with the sale of liquor. Irrespective of party affiliation, they were unanimous on the point that drinking was prohibited in their religion, but it was unfortunate that their community was being maligned to justify commoditys sale. Upon this, minister told the House that sale of liquor was regulated under Hadooq Ordinance and was provided only to non-Muslims and foreigners. If the legislators belonging to minorities had any objection to the current arrangement, they could come up with amendments in the said law, he asked.
Later, the House had to be adjourned before the stipulated time due to lack of quorum, which was pointed out by Seemal Kamran of PML-Q. The Treasury was scheduled to lay 10 amendment bills in the House on Monday. Only seven members were sitting on Treasury benches when the House was adjourned till Tuesday (today) to resume at 10 am.