LAHORE - Authorities at the Punjab Excise, Taxation and Narcotics Control Department are trying to hush-up the issue of seizure of 28,000 litres of alcohol.

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 complicating the matter 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.

The officer said that an official was given charge of D Region director’s office for three years, but no notification was issued in this regard. The finance department never allocated any budget for D Region, then how is the region being run, he asked.

In every nook and corner of Punjab tainted liquor is on sale and anybody can tell where it is coming from. The unnamed distillery is the only source of supply of liquor, he said.

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 the seizure of thousands of litres spurious alcohol that was caught by Excise and Narcotics officers in the recent past.

On current seizure high ups of the Excise department were not taking the issue seriously instead of encouraging their staff they were discouraging them with raising doubts on the seizure. While another seizure of 30000 liters of alcohol of same nature was made by the Excise branch in 2016 but seniors took no action against the distillery 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 involved in the heinous business was again posted there due to unknown reasons. In previous when this scribe had contacted, E&T Additional DG Masood ul Haq said that a show cause notice had been issued to the industry owner. When asked why the notice was sent only a week ago when the case occurred three months ago, he gave an absurd reply that they were “unaware” of the matter.

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

DG Akram Ashraf Gondal was not available to comment.

Well-placed sources in the E&T said that the department itself was encouraging the sale of spurious liquor in the province.

During 2016 an E&T inspector seized a factory allegedly involved in preparing spurious 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 services on the pretext that he was involved in conducting unlawful raids at the guest houses. He was reinstated after quite some time, that too on the pressure of staff association.

In other districts of the province there was also no check on manufacturing of illegal and spurious liquor. Two years ago 36 peoples died in Toba Tek Singh after consuming toxic liquor. Ten peoples had died in Jehlum district after consuming toxic liquor in October.