The owners and workers of several sheesha cafes protested against the city government’s crackdown on smoking in Gulberg on Monday.
Hundreds of workers, most employed at sheesha cafes on The Mall, gathered at Liberty Chowk and then marched to Hussain Chowk. They said the government’s campaign was unfair and would drive them out of business. They said that thousands of people depended on sheesha cafes for their livelihoods. The protest was organised by the Restaurant and Café Association of Punjab.
Kanwal Abbas, the owner of Dream Lounge, said that instead of stopping sheesha smoking in public, the government should stop the sale of drugs and alcohol in the city. He said city government officials had hurt their business by conducting frequent raids at cafes. He said that the city government was refusing to sit down and talk with cafe owners to reach a negotiated solution.
When announcing the campaign last month, the DCO had said that the city government’s campaign was aimed at enforcing the ban on smoking of all forms of tobacco in public places, including restaurants and bus stations, but so far only sheesha cafes have been raided.
Meanwhile at a meeting at the Town Hall, city government officials showed off 200 hookahs that had been confiscated in raids on 35 cafes. District Coordination Officer Noorul Amin Mengal said that alcohol and drugs had been found at several cafes. He said 12 cafes had been sealed and FIRs had been registered against two.
The DCO said that the city government had launched a public awareness campaign warning about the dangers of sheesha smoke. He said that action against the sheesha cafes would continue “until this menace is wiped out”. He said that sheesha cafes were “the main cause” of the spread of “unhealthy and negative activities among youth”.
Mengal said that sheesha cafes not only polluted the environment, but also “damage the new generation”.
He said that the city government had decided to act against the cafes after receiving complaints from people about them and many parents had voiced appreciation for the crackdown.
MPA Khawaja Imran Nazir said that raiding teams had found liquor, beer and “charas water” being used in hookahs at some cafes. He said that the city government’s campaign would “save the youth”. He said that after “cleansing” Lahore, the campaign would be extended to other districts.
MPA Meher Ishtiaq and officials of the Environmental Protection Department also attended the event.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 12th, 2012.