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 to open border for stranded Afghan nationals

Updated 05 April 2020

Pakistan to open border for stranded Afghan nationals

  • On Kabul’s request, the border crossings will briefly reopen from April 6 to 9
  • Pakistan sealed its border with Afghanistan on March 16 following the Covid-19 outbreak

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan announced on Saturday it would briefly reopen its borders with Afghanistan to allow stranded Afghan nationals to return home, the foreign office said.
On March 16, the coronavirus outbreak prompted Pakistan to seal borders with its neighbors as part of stringent containment measures against Covid-19. The border closure affected huge numbers of Afghans in Pakistan for various reasons including trade, visiting families and seeking better medical treatments-- all of who were abruptly stranded.
But next week, at Kabul’s special request, Torkham and Chaman land border crossings with Afghanistan will be opened “for a specific period” between April 6 to 9 to facilitate Afghan nationals, the FO statement said.
“At the special request of the Government of Afghanistan and based on humanitarian considerations, Pakistan has decided to allow the exit of Afghan nationals in Pakistan wishing to go back to their country,” the FO statement read.
According to the latest tally from both countries, five people have died from coronavirus in Afghanistan and 270 have tested positive so far. In Pakistan, confirmed cases crossed 2,700 on Saturday with 41 reported deaths from the disease.
The foreign ministry added that as a neighbor and in view of fraternal bilateral relations, Pakistan remained “in abiding solidarity with the people of Afghanistan, particularly at this time of global pandemic.”
Earlier on March 20, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan allowed Chaman border to open briefly, to facilitate the flow of foodstuff and perishable commodities to Afghanistan.