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July 3, 2018

Where the confiscated liquor evaporates?


July 3, 2018

Islamabad : Every year quite a large quantity of smuggled liquor, beer and wine is confiscated by the customs, the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF), the Rangers and the Coastguards all over the country. Besides these the authorities also confiscate tons and tons of narcotics including heroin, hashish and contraband chemicals.

Every year, a massive ‘narcotics destruction’ campaign to observe the international anti-narcotics day is arranged. And on the day the ANF burns quite a huge quantity of narcotics confiscated from different parts of the country and also crushes hundreds of thousands of bottles and cans of confiscated liquor, wine and bear under the road rollers as well.

However, questions have always been raised over the transparency of this whole exercise and there always were hushed whispers and rumours, especially concerning the destruction of confiscated liquor, wine and beer bottles and cans.

There are always rumours, whispers and gossips that most of those bottles crushed under the drums of the road rollers are filled with water or low quality, locally produced liquor while the actual stuff is already ‘taken care of’, Some of it making its way to the people occupying positions in the highest echelons of power in this city.

And the recent incident of a raid on the house of a foreigner in sector F-8 from where massive quantities of imported liquor of all types were recovered have exposed number of malpractices and corruption.

Interestingly, the foreigner whose house was raided by the Islamabad Police turned out to be a North Korean diplomat, who at the time of the raid was not present at home. The ‘First Information Report’ (FIR) filed by the Korean diplomat revealed that over a thousand bottles of liquor, wine and beer were taken away by the raiding party of the police.

The North Korean diplomat brought the relevant documents and official confirmation from the Foreign Office ascertaining his status and demanded recovery of the items taken away from his place by the Islamabad Police.

But after passage of many months the Islamabad Police has not be able to return the goods because those have disappeared from the Islamabad Police possession, evaporated in thin air, vanished without a trace.

The in-charge of the raiding party has been tactfully avoiding the inquiry to explain as to why and on whose orders or directions he conducted that raid which caused embarrassment to the Foreign Office.

The intriguing factor in the whole situation is his suspected contacts with the top bosses in the Islamabad Police who are protecting him while he is continuing to avoid disclose as to where that confiscated liquor, wine and beer in addition to other valuables have gone which the North Korean diplomat claimed have been taken away in the raid from his residence in his absence.

Investigations carried out by this scribe have revealed some startling facts. There exists a whole network not only in the Islamabad Police but in other cities and they are working in collaboration with each other.

The members of these networks have very strong ties with the bootleggers in many cities with whom they deal to dispose of such huge consignments of seized/confiscated liquor and even narcotics.

The presence, or existence of these elements, which operate on both sides of the fence, striking deals between the police and the bootleggers gangs came to the fore again during the recent raid on the North Korean diplomat’s residence for recovery and confiscation of liquor worth millions of rupees, which now seem to have disappeared in thin air, vanished, evaporated.

In yet another incident the police recently arrested one Shahzad Masih, brother of Zahid Chota who, reportedly, runs a bootlegger network in the city. There were reports that the police recovered and confiscated a huge quantity of liquor from the possession of Shahzad Masih.

However, this particular group which, unfortunately include some journalists as well, intervened in the matter and settled the whole issue by striking Rs2.5 million deal with the police.

There are serious allegations of involvement of this group backed by some journalists in the liquor business in the federal capital and it was learnt that in addition to help striking deals between the police and the bootleggers they also get monthly ‘protection money’ from both sides. There are allegations that this group gets Rs800,000 per month from the police to provide them protection.

There are rumours that most of the liquor confiscated from Islamabad and Rawalpindi is sold to bootleggers not only in the federal capital but those operating in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and these consignments are safely escorted to their dens in the cover provided by the police.

No matter what, the most painful revelation made in the course of investigations by this scribe remained the unfortunate and highly unethical involvement of some media persons in the whole racket. There are indications of involvement of some of our own colleagues who on one hand provide protection to the ‘liquor mafia’ in the twin cities and on the other they collaborate with the police to keep the things under a thick wrap of secrecy, simply by not reporting the facts.

“You blame us of corruption and protecting the corrupt. What about your own colleagues who eagerly act as collaborators with the corrupt police officers and officials to provide protection to the gangs and individual bootleggers?” asked a senior police officer of Islamabad Police.

“Within minutes a bootlegger is nabbed with consignments of liquor, no matter small or large, the in-charge of the concerned police station starts receiving calls from your colleagues to not only immediately release the culprit but let him take away the booty as well,” the police officer said.

“I do concede that it is dark weakness on part of the police officers and officials who budge to such demands from your colleagues but everybody in our department is not so clean and so strong to stand up to the threats and pressure mounted by your colleagues.

“One small negative news item in the media by a reporter against any officer or official in the police department and the person spends months, or in some cases years, to clear his position and get restored to his official position after washing away the stain he has been smeared with,” the police official said.

There is yet another interesting aspect explored in the whole business of confiscating and burning or destroying the liquor and contraband drugs. The government can earn hundreds of millions of rupees if not billions by simply selling the confiscated liquor, wine and beer!

“Why we have to destroy all these items while there are more at least four distilleries producing and marking liquor and beer under license. We are also officially allowing import of these items for sale to the expats, diplomats or others based all over the country and the FBR (Federal Board of Revenue) officially issues permits to the foreigners, diplomats and others to purchase the imported liquor, wine and beer from designated outlets,” the sources said.

“So, instead of destroying the confiscated liquor, wine and beer that should be made available for purchase by those privileged to purchase the ‘imported stuff’ and the money earned from this single source should be used to strengthen the departments engaged in fighting against smuggling of the illegal liquor into the country,” demanded one source.

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