LAHORE - The Anti-Corruption Department has started an inquiry into the charges against the director general of the Excise, Taxation and Narcotics Control (ET&NC) involving sale of 58,000 litres of liquor.

The inquiry started on the directions of the Punjab chief secretary when a citizen, Hamayun Butt, said in his application that millions of litres of liquor were being sold illegally by various distilleries in Punjab on a daily basis.

In his application, Butt held DG, Additional DG and other senior officers of the department responsible for the illegal sale of alcohol. He said that distillery owners were selling alcohol to drug peddlers who prepare illicit liquor, causing a loss of billions to the provincial exchequer and dozens of deaths every year.

The applicant referred two cases wherein ET&NC officials seized two tankers carrying 30,000 and 28,000 litres of alcohol each, but the excise DG and other senior officers not only discouraged the team members but also facilitated the distillery owners to continue their businesses.

It is worth mentioning here that narcotics control wing of the department on September 19 seized a tanker filled with 28,000 litres of alcohol being transported to the city. The driver arrested on the spot disclosed that tanker was coming from Haseeb Waqas Abdullah Sugar Mills, Nankana Sahib.

But then Additional Director General Masudul Haq said the FIR registered in this case was doubtful. He said, “The FIR is strange. The driver who was arrested with alcohol did not name the distillery. Also, he did not name the destination where alcohol was being transported.”

On the other hand, an officer of the narcotics wing said on condition of anonymity that those making the matter complicated were in fact patronising the illegal business of liquor. He said, “I was offered Rs1.2 million just for not mentioning the name of the distillery, but I refused.” He said that he had seized raw material for 112,000 bottles. The cost of the seized alcohol was Rs112 million, he said.

Another seizure of 30,000 litres of alcohol of the same nature was made by the excise branch in 2016 but seniors took no action against the distillery Premier Chemical Industry, Sheikhupura except issuance of a show-cause notice to its management. Shafiqabad police had seized a tanker carrying this huge quantity of illegal liquor, owned by an industrialist on September 23, 2016 near Malipura area on Bund Road and arrested the driver.

The matter was brought to the notice of Excise & Taxation (E&T) Department since the owner of the industry was a licence holder of distillery. The liquor was meant to be used for industrial purposes but the owner of the industry violating the licence tried to sell it in the market for public consumption. No action was taken against the accused by the E&T department so far due to unknown reasons.

Inspector Naseem, who was involved in the business, was again posted at the same distillery due to reasons best known to the DG.

In the past, several deaths were caused by toxic liquor, but the secretary and director general of the Excise Department kept a mum over the issue and tried to hush-up the issue. In the latest incident, 44 people lost their lives in Toba Tek Singh in 2016 due to toxic liquor.

Twelve people died in Lahore after allegedly consuming tainted liquor in the Yuhanabad area. The death toll due to consumption of poisonous liquor in Multan and Muzaffargarh rose to 36.

As for the production and sale of liquor at industrial level, the criminal negligence and alleged collusion of E&T can be gauged from the inaction of this department over seizure of thousands of litres of tainted alcohol that was caught by the excise and narcotics officers in the recent past.

In the latest incident, after two to three years when this scribe contacted him about the action taken by department, his answer was the same, a show-cause notice has been issued to the distillery management and the excise inspector has been suspended.

In 2016, an E&T inspector seized a factory allegedly involved in preparing tainted liquor, which was supposed to be supplied to two well-known hotels of the city situated on The Mall. Instead of getting a pat on the back, the official was immediately suspended from service on the pretext that he was involved in conducting unlawful raids at guesthouses. He was reinstated after quite some time, that too on the pressure of the staff association.

An anti-corruption inquiry officer said that in the latest case Shahdara police played a negative role in an investigation when the narcotics wing handed over the case to the police concerned. Investigation officer Waris did not seek even one-day remand of the accused driver from the court and sent him to jail the very next day due to unknown reasons.

Anti-Corruption Director Asghar Joyia said that an inquiry would be finalized on merit without keeping in view the rank and station of any officer involved in the case.

ET&NC Secretary Babar Shafi said that he was in Islamabad in connection with a meeting and he would be in a position to comment on the issue after a couple of days.

When contacted, ET&NC Additional Secretary Shaffat Ali said, “I supervise only technical matters of the department, so the issue does not relate to me”.