Café owners in Pakistan ask government to remove sheesha ban

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A group of girls and boys smoking smoke a water pipe, also known as a narghile, as they sit with friends at home in Islamabad May 8, 2014. (Reuters)
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Owners of sheesha cafés in Karachi are addressing a news conference at the press club on November 15, 2019. The smoking device in question can also be seen in the image. (AN Photo)
Updated 17 November 2019

Café owners in Pakistan ask government to remove sheesha ban

  • The prohibition was ordered by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2015
  • Café owners say a regulated use of sheesha can help the country collect Rs100 million in sales tax from Karachi alone

KARACHI: Owners of sheesha cafés in Karachi on Friday urged the provincial administration of Sindh to regulate the use of sheesha – a glass-based instrument used to smoke flavored tobacco – in line with the World Health Organization rules since that would “create employment opportunities, earn the government nearly Rs100 million in revenue and promote tourism in the country.”
Addressing a news conference at the Karachi Press Club (KPC), owners and the legal counsel of All Pakistan Café and Restaurant Association (APCRA) said that provincial governments had not come up with any regulations despite clear orders from the apex court to prevent the misuse of sheesha.
“The ban on sheesha in cafés has led to its spread to people’s houses,” Syed Maaz Shah, the association’s coordinator said, adding: “A few days ago, two highly educated people, including a doctor, were sent to prison after police recovered sheesha from their car. A close relative of one of the detainees passed away due to cardiac arrest [caused by emotional distress] after she heard the news and saw their pictures plastered on social media.”
“When a thing is unregulated, it is misused. This is why we have filed an appeal in the apex court and are requesting the provincial authorities to legislate in accordance with the WHO regulations,” he continued.
Shah argued that sheesha was the modern form of hookah, which was used by people like Dr. Muhammad Iqbal, one of the founding fathers of the country, former prime minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and a noted politician, Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan.
“I don’t say it’s not injurious to health. But it’s less injurious than cigarettes which are regulated,” he argued, adding that his association was taking an action against the cafés offering sheesha services to students.
“There are nearly 200 cafés in Karachi. Whereas the number of cafés in Pakistan’s other urban centers may accumulate to more than 2000,” he said. “We are ready to be regulate these places. In Karachi alone, the government can earn Rs100million from annual sales tax on such cafés.”
In 2015, the Supreme Court had asked provincial administrations to regulate the sale of sheesha while ordering to the closure of sheesha bars across Pakistan.
In July this year, the Senate Standing Committee on National Health Services Regulation and Coordination had requested the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) to enact proper laws and allow sheesha smoking in the country.


Hundreds of abandoned animals die at Pakistan pet markets

Updated 07 April 2020

Hundreds of abandoned animals die at Pakistan pet markets

  • Animals still alive in the corner of Karachi's sprawling Empress Market were rescued only after activists appealed
  • In the eastern city of Lahore, animals met with a similar fate

KARACHI: Abandoned when Pakistan's largest cities went into lockdown, hundreds of caged cats, dogs and rabbits have been found dead inside pet markets hurriedly shuttered as the coronavirus spread.
Animals still alive in the corner of Karachi's sprawling Empress Market were rescued only after activists appealed to the authorities for access.
Two weeks into the shutdown, Ayesha Chundrigar could hear the cries of the pets from outside the shops, which together housed up to 1,000 animals.
"When we got inside, the majority of them were dead, about 70 percent. Their bodies were lying on the ground," Chundrigar, who runs ACF Animal Rescue, told AFP.
"It was so horrific, I can't tell you."
Starving and locked in cages with no light or ventilation, the surviving pets sat amongst the dead, trembling.
As the virus pandemic grew, Pakistan's major cities were plunged into lockdown, forcing many shops to close. Only stalls selling essential goods such as food and medicine were allowed to continue operating.
It left pet shop owners blocked from their businesses, some resorting to sneaking in at night to feed the animals.
After the desperate rescue, Chundrigar has now convinced the Karachi authorities to allow pet shop owners and her team daily access to the animals.

In the eastern city of Lahore, animals met with a similar fate.
The bodies of about 20 dogs were found dumped in a sewer near Tollinton Market, a hub for pet businesses which had closed leaving animals to starve.
Kiran Maheen was able to rescue more than two dozen dogs, rabbits and cats after convincing officials at the market to let her in, but a large number had already died.
"When the police opened up the shutters, a lot of animals were already lying dead inside," Maheen told AFP, adding that many had suffocated from a lack of air.
Pakistani authorities have confirmed about 2,900 cases of COVID-19 and 45 deaths, though the tally is thought to be many times larger because of testing limitations in this impoverished country of 215 million.
Around 25 percent of the population already live under the poverty line, but millions more who earn a daily wage have joined them since the lockdown began, experts say.