Karachi - Sindh Excise and Taxation Department on Tuesday issued directives to its officials to initiate action against illegal liquor shops in the province and prepare a report on the existing licence holding wine shops.

The decision was taken following the Sindh High Court’s (SHC) directives to Sindh Excise and Taxation Department director general to start revoking licences of 120 wine shops in the province granted in violation of the Prohibition (Enforcement of Hadd) Order 1979.

The SHC Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, who was heading the bench hearing the petition filed by the citizens, Muhammad Zafar Muavia and Shehryar David, directed on Tuesday the director general to ensure issuance of notices to liquor shop owners in connection with cancellation of their licences within two days.

Earlier, the Excise & Taxation Department DG had submitted his report, stating that presently there were 59 registered wine shops in Karachi, over which the court expressed its concern, and observed that it seemed that there were more wine shops in the city than the number of non-Muslims.

The bench directed the department to inform the court about the criteria for issuing a licence to a wine shop owner.

According to the NADRA report, there are at least 268,363 non-Muslims living in Karachi, out of which 196,122 are Christians and 72,241 are Hindus.

The provincial government had earlier informed on the floor of the assembly that there were 69 wine shops in the city and licences to their owners had been issued under Article 17 of Prohibition (Enforcement of Hadd) Order 1979.

The bench was informed that the former chief minister, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, had imposed a ban on issuing new licences, and the provincial government had not issued a single licence for the last couple of years.

It was further told that only 13 persons had been issued licences in the province between 2008 and 2013.

It is pertinent to mention here that liquor licences are issued only to non-Muslims and other conditions include that a liquor shop should not be within 100 yards of an educational institution or a religious place; should not be in a residential area; area residents have no objection to it etc. The issue of sale and purchase of liquor in Muslim residential areas was also taken up in the provincial assembly couple of times.

During one such proceeding, MQM legislators Saifuddin Khalid and Zafar Kamali had stated that wine shops in Karachi’s district West and in Mirpurkhas were in residential areas and the residents concerned had raised objections; so either those be relocated or shut down.

The provincial government, however, had said that it had not issued any new licence despite the fact that the provincial government generates revenues by issuing licences.  Meanwhile, according to sources, the provincial excise and taxation department has directed its inspectors to prepare a feasibility report on all the wine shops in the province, keeping in view the rules and regulations stipulated in the Prohibition (Enforcement of Hadd) Order 1979.

“We are yet to receive the written orders by the court, but still we have directed our officials to start the process of revoking licenses of all liquor shops initially,” said an excise department official on condition of anonymity, adding that after the verification and keeping in view other formalities necessary for opening wine shops, the licences would be reissued.

He further informed that over 70 wine shops were operating in the city illegally through in collusion with dirty fish in excise and police departments.

“Even officers wanting to take action against the illegal wine shops are unable to do so because of their political and other influences,” he told The Nation.

He said that Ibrahim Hyderi, Macchar Colony, Chanesar Goth in Manzoor Colony and some other areas were considered as places where illegal sale of liquor was on the rise.

Meanwhile, the Hindu and Christian religious clerics have also raised the issue of sale of liquor in their names, and added that even their religions prohibited liquor consumption.