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.


Pakistan’s fastest man shares recipe for success and delicious pulao

Updated 12 min 31 sec ago

Pakistan’s fastest man shares recipe for success and delicious pulao

  • Sami Ullah won the bronze medal in the men’s 100-meter race at the 13th South Asian Games in Nepal
  • He reconciles his sports career with running his father’s pulao business

PESHAWAR: Pakistan’s fastest man, Sami Ullah, who won the bronze medal in the men’s 100-meter race at the 13th South Asian Games in Nepal on Tuesday, is all into sports, but he also needs to support his family, which he does with a traditional rice dish – pulao.
“I know that I need time to practice and improve my speed, but I am also aware that my family depends on my pulao sales,” the 25-year-old athlete told Arab News during a phone call from Nepal’s Katmandu on Thursday.
The young runner’s talent has been widely recognized even before he won the gold medal at the National Games in Peshawar last month, when he completed 100 meters in just 10.64 seconds. For comparison, the record of the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, for the same distance is 9.58 seconds.

In this undated photograph, Pakistan’s fastest man weighs a pulao portion at his shop in Jamrud, Khyber district, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. (Photo courtesy: Sami Ullah)

Under his coach, Muhammad Shah, who as Ullah says “polished” his skills, the runner won gold twice when he was a teenager, in the under-14 and under-19 categories. It was also Shah who kept his spirits up when Ullah thought to give up.
“I injured my foot and treatment took four years. It was a crucial point in my sports career. I was disheartened and my dream of becoming a champion seemed to me an illusion,” he said. But at that time the coach and friends came with support and infused into him new energy.
Besides the coach, there was one more very special person who made his sports career possible.
“Since childhood I’ve been assisting my father at his pulao shop,” Ullah said. While back then the father was not enthusiastic about his son’s athletic career, the young runner found a powerful supporter in his mother, who secretly gave him money to buy vitamins and other things he needed to go on.

In this undated photograph, Sami Ullah runs his father’s pulao stall in Jamrud, Khyber district, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. (Photo courtesy: Sami Ullah)

Sports is his passion, but Ullah knows that he must reconcile it with running the pulao business of his father Dilawar Khan. Khan migrated from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s southern district of Bannu to the town of Jamrud in Khyber, where in a roadside restaurant he introduced the delicious pulao variant of his home region.
His father’s recent retirement, gave Ullah sole responsibility for running the shop.
While he has his eyes fixed on bigger goals and wants to wave Pakistan’s flag in international competitions, the country’s fastest man begins his day slowly with cooking utensils, a manual weighing scale, spoons and a huge pot of rice.
His recipe for success is in loving for both his father’s legacy and his own dreams.
“No doubt, it is a difficult task to keep both the family business and my personal dreams alive,” he said. But he attributes his stamina to having many responsibilities. “That’s why I love both my father’s seat and my own goals,” he said.
His recipe for delicious pulao is in proportion. He mixes 25 kilograms of rice with the same amount of meat and cooks it all in a spicy garam masala blend. The spice mix, however, shall remain a family secret.