CM Buzdar submits reply to NAB in liquor licence inquiry

Says he has no role in matter as it is excise and taxation DG’s prerogative


Our Correspondent August 18, 2020
Punjab CM Usman Buzdar. PHOTO: NNI/FILE

LAHORE:

Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar submitted a four-page reply to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in connection with its inquiry pertaining to the issuance of a liquor licence to a private hotel in Lahore allegedly against a bribe.

Buzdar maintained in his reply that no illegal activity was committed in the matter pertaining to the licence. According to sources, the reply to the anti-graft watchdog's 17 questions was submitted through Buzdar's representative, advocate Obaidullah.

In his reply, the CM maintained that he played no part in issuance of the liquor licence as it falls under the jurisdiction of the excise and taxation director general. He stated that a total of 11 liquour licences have been issued to date, nine of which were issued by the DG of the Excise and Taxation Department, while two licences were issued by the governor in 2000 and 2001.

According to the sources, Buzdar maintained that Excise and Taxation DG Akram Ashraf Gondal's summary pertaining to the licence was sent back by his office as he did not have the authority to issue the licence.

The DG then sent the summary again to the CM's Secretariat after issuing the licence, and the principle secretary sent it back yet again owing to the absence of a relevant forum.

The CM stated that the excise and taxation minister suspended the liquor licence of the said hotel and Justice Shahid Karim of the Lahore High Court gave directives to restore the liquor licence in 2019, while the verdict on the intra-court appeal against the single-bench decision remains pending.

Buzdar added that not a single liquor bottle has been sold against the licence issued to the private hotel that has also filed an application for the renewal of its licence.

The Punjab CM was issued a call-up notice by the anti-graft watchdog for allegedly receiving Rs50 million in bribes to force the Excise and Taxation Department to illegally issue a liquor licence to the private hotel. He appeared before the bureau earlier this week in connection with the inquiry.

The hotel, which is under construction near the Lahore airport, had applied for an L-2 liquor licence with the Excise and Taxation Department.

However, it did not first obtain a 4/5 star rating from the Punjab Tourist Services Department required under the Pakistan Hotels and Restaurant Act 1976.

In 2009, the Chief Minister Office had issued a policy under which an L-2 liquor licence could only be issued to hotels having a 4/5 star rating.

However, the Excise and Taxation Department issued the licence to the hotel in 2019 in violation of the 2009 policy as it had not acquired a 4/5 star rating from the provincial tourist services department.

The bureau claims, according to its sources, the licence was issued to the hotel despite the Excise and Taxation Department referring the matter to the CM Office thrice, informing Buzdar that the move was in violation of the 2009 policy.

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