Students say government ban on sheesha unjustified
Café owners protest against raids, say business destroyed
By Aliya Mirza
Despite the City District Government Lahore (CDGL) imposing a ban on sheesha smoking, a large number of youngsters, both male and female, and even professionals belonging to different fields are still visiting cafes for sheesha as they claim sheesha smoking to be a “healthy recreational activity”.
The CDGL had started a crackdown against sheesha cafes in the city four months ago and almost all sheesha cafes were sealed in the process. The Lahore High Court (LHC) later gave permission for reopening the cafes, however, the raids continued during which the government officials confiscated sheesha hookahs and arrested workers and in some cases the customers as well.
A large number of sheesha cafes can be seen located on different important roads of the city, which not only provide sheesha but also serve as fast food joints for the visitors.
Usually, youngsters throng the cafes, however, people also use them as venues for business meetings and social gatherings.
These visitors speak actively against the crackdown on sheesha cafes, saying such places are “platforms of recreational activities and are not doing any harm to the citizens”.
Talking to Daily Times, a university student, Umaima, said that she had been visiting different sheesha cafes for the past two years and she found these places to be good entertainment outlets where she could get together with friends and have fun.
Another student, Amina, was of the view, “Terrorism and bomb blasts had almost finished all healthy and entertaining activities of the youth, and in such circumstances, these cafes are providing some relief to the students and business people as they can go there and relax for a while amidst their busy routines.” She further said that if the government was really concerned about health of the youth, it should work towards provision of other activities and entertainment to the youngsters.
Another student, Saleh, said that if the government could allow sheesha smoking at home, why was it against the same activity in cafes.
Separately, Dream Lounge Café owner Kanwal Abbas said he had been continuously trying to arrange for negotiations with the government officials but no one was willing to come forward. He further said that police should work on solving real issues instead of “baseless raids” at sheesha cafes. He added that instead of stopping sheesha smoking in public, the government should stop the sale of drugs and alcohol in the city. “Due to illegal raids our customers are facing problems and sheesha hookahs that were confiscated by police have not been returned to us yet,” he added.
Talking to Daily Times, Punjab Restaurant and Café Association President Malik Naseer said that they had urged the DCO to allow café owners to open separate sections for sheesha smokers but the DCO did not give permission.
He said that CDGL’s inflexibility had forced café owners to serve sheesha on their own risk as they had already faced and were still facing huge losses in business.
When asked about the cafes that use alcohol and drugs as base in their sheeshas, he said that no such case was brought to his notice, however, he added that if any café was found involved in such activities, he would condemn it and will cancel membership of the cafe. DT Report