KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Wednesday directed the provincial authorities to ensure within 20 days recalling of the licences of the liquor shops located in Muslim-majority areas or near mosques, schools and other prohibitive places.
Headed by Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, a two-judge bench directed the provincial government to conclude the exercise before Feb 14.
The bench gave the direction while hearing a petition and miscellaneous applications seeking cancellation of the licences and closure of the liquor shops being operated in Muslim-majority areas.
At the outset of the hearing, Advocate General Zamir Ghumro informed the judges that the provincial government had issued public notices and was conducting an exercise in line with the earlier orders.
The provincial government’s chief law officer stated that the government was looking at this issue afresh and would ensure the recalling or transfer of the licences issued to those shops which were located within the prescribed parameters and were in Muslim community areas or near mosques, schools or other prohibitive places.
He said the government would ensure that the liquor shops only be permitted in areas with majority of non-Muslim residents.
“Let this exercise be also concluded well before next date of hearing”, the bench ordered and put off the hearing to Feb 14.
Meanwhile, Advocates Saleem Michael and Atam Parkash appeared for the Christen Helpline and Hindu Helpline, respectively, and requested the court to issue notices to the churches and temples.
The bench asked the two counsel to submit a list of 10 churches and as many temples so that notices may be issued.
During a previous hearing, the chief justice questioned the representatives of the provincial authorities under what law licences for running liquor shops were issued.
It was explained that the licences may be issued for manufacture, import, or sale of liquor on the ground that such liquor was required for consumption by non-Muslim citizen of Pakistan as a part of a religious ceremony as per Article 17 of the Prohibition (Enforcement of Hadd) Order 1979.
According to the excise and taxation department’s director general, any non-Muslim citizen could purchase 16 bottles of beer and eight bottles of wine in a month. He argued that the non-Muslims could not even consume 10 per cent of the quota as they could not financially afford it.
The National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) submitted a report showing details of the Muslim and non-Muslim population in the city.
According to the report, 2,809 Christians and 2,572 Hindus reside in the Central district, 69,820 Christians and 13,356 Hindus live in East, 16,329 Christians and 8,877 Hindus live in Malir, 24,406 Christians and 4,422 Hindus in West, and 57,568 Christians and 43,143 Hindus live in the South district.
Earlier, the excise and taxation department informed the judges that there were 120 liquor shops across the province. Of them, 59 shops are in Karachi including 11 being operated in the Defence and Clifton areas.