Pakistani legislators want liquor ban to be lifted

Islamabad, Oct 23 (IANS) Pakistani legislators are advocating lifting of the ban on sale of liquor in state-run hotels and resorts in a desperate bid to ‘attract tourists and increase revenue’, the Express Tribune reported Saturday.

In a meeting of the Senate’s standing committee on tourism, chairperson of the committee Nilofer Bakhtiar questioned the ‘wisdom behind imposing the ban on government-owned hotels when the private five-star hotels are allowed to sell liquor’.

‘We will recommend lifting of a ban on the sale of liquor in government-run hotels and motels, enabling them to overcome financial difficulties,’ she said.

Citing the example of Rawalpindi’s Flashman Hotel, she said: ‘It was profitable as long as it was allowed to sell liquor. Since the imposition of the ban two years ago, it has been running in loss.’

‘If we want to attract maximum number of tourists, we should provide them with a complete set of facilities,’ she added.

None of the committee members objected to the idea as such. Pakistan’s tourism industry has been in doldrums for the last several years because of terrorist activities and lack of proper facilities despite having exquisite tourist spots particularly in the northern areas.

Bakhtiar is a former federal minister for tourism in Shaukat Aziz’s cabinet, who had to tender her resignation amid mounting criticism and a ‘Fatwa’ issued by the Lal Masjid clerics on her controversial parachute jump in Paris.

The five-star hotels in Pakistan are issued permits to sell liquor to non-Muslims and foreigners, who have to show their passport before being able to enjoy a drink. Muslims cannot openly sell or purchase liquor in the country after a ban was imposed by former prime minister Zulfiqar Bhutto in the 1970s.

(Awais Saleem can be contacted at ians.pakistan@gmail.com)

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