From past many months, it has been regular practice of Police and Assistant Commissioner of Islamabad to raid the Shisha Cafes operating in the city. Several Shisha Cafes were raided. Smokers were apprehended and the Smoking Apparatus was confiscated along with Tobacco. Indeed, smoking is injurious to health and there is no doubt about it. The matter of concern for me and many like me is that why Shisha is considered as taboo and adult smokers are molested by the Police?
Section 5 of the Smoking Ordinance 2002 (LXXIV of 2002) states, “No person shall smoke or use tobacco in any other form in any place of public work and use. The Federal Government may, however, issue guidelines for permitting designated smoking areas in premises or places where adequate arrangements are made to protect the health of non-smokers.”
Similarly a notification (S.R.O. 653 (I)/2003) was issued by Ministry of Health on 30th June, 2003 stating, “In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 3 of the prohibition of smoking and Protection of Non-Smokers Health Ordinance, 2002 (LXXIV of 2002), the Federal Government is pleased to declare, hospitals, dispensaries and other health care establishments, educational institutions, offices, conference rooms, all domestic flights, restaurants, buses, wagons, trains, indoor stadiums, gymnasiums, clubs, lounges of airports, waiting rooms at railway stations, waiting rooms at bus stations and addas, to be places of public work or use to be no smoking and no tobacco places.”
Another notification (S.R.O. 654 (I)/2003) enabled designated persons as envisaged in Section 2 (b) of the aforementioned Ordinance. A statutory regulation order (S.R.O. 277(I)/2007) was issued by Ministry of Health that amended the S.R.O. 654 (I)/2003. Originally it was envisaged in the S.R.O. 654 (I)/2003 in clause (d) that all Police Officers of rank Sub-Inspector and above are authorized to exercise the authority to prevent the smoking in the areas designated as Smoke Free by Smoking Ordinance 2002. The aforementioned notification replaced Sub-Inspector with Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI). Now whereas it is responsibility of the Police to ensure the rule of law in the country, this particular amendment actually opened the door of the Police harassments and enabled all ASIs and above officers to extract hefty bribes from the innocent public.
It has been seen that the Authorities and Commissioner of Islamabad in particular have totally ignored or dismissed the later part of the Section (5) of the Smoking Ordinance 2002 that enables Federal Government to allow smoking on the designated spots. Further it has been seen that the Commissioner of Islamabad is actually cracking down on Shisha and not on other modes of smoking such as cigarettes etc. It is a common site to site people smoking openly in the Public Places and mocking the law to the fullest. Police on its part is equal culprit as many designated Authorized ASIs are seen smoking in Police Mobiles, Pickets of the Capital and in Police Stations.
I think the jurisdiction of Commissioner of Islamabad is either limited to Shisha Cafes or he is not aware of the originally enacted Law. The comparison of the Smoking Ordinance with similar Law enacted in India revealed certain shortcomings in it. For example Section 5 of the Smoking Ordinance 2002 clearly states that there will be designated smoking areas in premises or places where adequate arrangements are made to protect the health of non-smokers.
There is a similar law in India called the Smoking Act 2002. The law is loosely similar to the Pakistani Law except that there are some additional provisions. For example Section (4) of Smoking Act of India 2002 (34 of 2003) states, “No person shall smoke in any public place: Provided that in a hotel having thirty rooms or a restaurant having seating capacity of thirty persons or more and in airports, a separate provision for smoking area or space maybe made.”
The Indian Law made it clear that smoking of any type such as cigarette, Shisha, Beedi etc. is allowed to be smoked in the designated smoking area. The point is that, in Pakistan, a Shisha Café is a designated place (as envisaged in Smoking Act 2002) exclusively for smoking then by what jurisdiction Commissioner of Islamabad and Police is confiscating Shisha Apparatus and rounding up the people smoking Shisha Pipe? Section 8 of the Smoking Ordinance 2002 stats, “No person shall sell cigarettes or any other smoking substance to a person who is below the age of 18 years.” Conversely a person who is above the age of 18 years is free to choose between smoking Cigarette or Shisha as an adult as he is choose to cast his ballot and choose between PTI, PML(N) or PPP depending upon the personal choice.
It has been seen that the Police and Commissioner of Islamabad is violating the above section by violating the fundamental rights of the people. There is a smoking law in UK as well that has been enacted by the Westminster. The Law in UK is very clear and has designated Smoking Premises. The Smoke Free (Exemptions and Vehicles) Regulations 2007 Section 5 (3) states, “In this regulation “designated room” means a bedroom or a room used only for smoking which –
(a) Has been designated in writing by the person having charge of the premises in which the room is situated as being a room in which smoking is permitted.
(b) Has a ceiling and, except for doors and windows, is completely enclosed on all sides by solid, floor-to-ceiling walls;
(c) Does not have a ventilation system that ventilates into any other part of the premises (except any other designated rooms);
(d) Is clearly marked as a room in which smoking is permitted; and
(e) Except where the room is in a prison, does not have any door that opens onto smoke-free premises which is not mechanically closed immediately after use.
I think that it is more appropriate for the Police and Commissioner of Islamabad to pay attention on the whole Law and don’t just penalize the Shisha Cafes and subvert the adult’s choice of smoking and not smoking. I also want to bring into the notice that Section 9 of the Smoking Ordinance 2002 that states clearly that the sale of tobacco in any form is also prohibited within the 50 meters of any educational institution. The section used the word “tobacco product” that means it also includes Gutka, Tara, 121, Niswar etc. It is a matter of Shame that all these products are openly sold within 50 m of many educational institutions. Commissioner of Islamabad has turned blind eye to their Sale. It looks like that Respected Commissioner has some personal grudge with Shisha so he is only cracking down on Shisha Cafes indiscriminately whether they are serving Shisha to minors (as envisaged in Section 8 of Smoking Ordinance 2002) or to adults. Further Police rounds up even the adults smoking Shisha in sheer violation of the Spirit of the Ordinance and extract hefty bribes from the people.
The funny thing is that on average 2 vehicles are lifted from the Public Parking Spaces and Residential Quarters of Islamabad daily by Carjackers operating conveniently in the city. Commissioner of Islamabad has not felt appropriate to impound stronghold of these carjackers. Similarly Commissioner and Police of Islamabad looks powerless and incapable to ensuring the Security and Safety of the Citizens of Islamabad as envisaged in Article 9, 23 and 24 of the Constitution. All the Police have to show is that how many Shisha Cafes it has impounded as progress.
Police of Pakistan in general and Islamabad Police in particular is a failure in itself the episode of Sikandar, the lone gunman of the Jinnah Avenue, is evident to judge the professional efficiency of the Police and Commissioner of Islamabad. Well, this is not enough the main reason cited by the Police and People in favor of these raids is Public Health. I want to cite Pakistan Environmental Protection Act 1997 (XXXIV of 1997) here. Section 2 (iii) describes Air Pollutant as, “any substance that causes pollution of air and includes soot, smoke, dust particles, odour, light, electro-magnetic radiation, heat, fumes, combustion, exhaust, exhaust gases, noxious gases, hazardous substance and radioactive substances;”
How many times Commissioner and his task force raided poisonous smoke emitting factories and steel rerolling mills in Islamabad? It is a matter of shame that Commissioner of Islamabad and other competent authorities are totally unaware of this act and no action has ever been taken by Islamabad Police or Commissioner to check on the hazardous smoke emitting from these factories and is the main cause of the Asthma and other allergies in Federal Capital. Similarly bootlegging rings are active in the city and Commissioner is totally oblivious to their existence and open transactions happening in the posh sectors of Islamabad. The only menace that Commissioner can see is Shisha Cafes where adult youth go to enjoy for a bit.
There has been no campaign by any ministry except for some hoardings educating youth about the adverse impact of the prolonged use of Tobacco. Indeed efforts of any authority to check upon the Sale of Tobacco and Tobacco products to minors is laudable but care should be taken that these actions don’t violate any fundamental right of any adult person. Not only Smoking Ordinance 2002 but also other laws and acts should also be enforced. In fact, it should be considered that terror-ridden, militancy-infested and unemployed youth of this country has very limited opportunities of enjoyment. Commissioner of Islamabad should concentrate on his real job not upon point scoring by impounding Shisha Cafes and giving Police a freehand to harass people.
It is our right to choose between smoking and not smoking. It is a fundamental right of free choice. Commissioner of Islamabad should direct his efforts upon ensuring that all provisions of Smoking Ordinance 2002 are enforced and only Shisha Cafes are not discriminated.