Ban on public welfare initiatives being flouted blatantly

ISLAMABAD, Sep 10 (APP):The local administrations of twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad contrary to their claims have failed to fully enforce ban on certain harmful products and practices, imposed periodically by the policy makers in greater public interest.

Be it ban on plastic bag, sale of loose and smuggled cigarette, pan, fuel without helmet or kite flying, no strict compliance could be ensured by the implementing authorities in that regard.
All the public welfare initiatives appeared to be relics of bygone age now, are being violated blatantly in both the cities due to poor surveillance by the local administrations.

A law introduced by the previous government in March 2018 to ban the sale of loose cigarette is not being observed in letter and spirit, enabling the teenagers to get this harmful product easily from anywhere.

Similarly, the shopkeepers are flouting sections 5, 8 and 9 of ‘Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-smokers Health ordinance, 2002’ prohibiting consumption of tobacco in all public places, sale of cigarette to under age person and distribution, sale and storage of tobacco products within 50 meter range of educational institutions, respectively.

Kite flying ban and ‘No helmet; no fuel’, imposed in the past to save precious lives of citizens, has also met the same fate due to shift in the priorities of local administrations changing with announcement of every new initiatives.

The local administration of Islamabad that has already been moving pillar to post for implementation of the past initiatives are now assigned a big task of making the capital’s markets free of polythene bag but use of the prohibited items is being reported in some parts of the city amid resistance from consumers and shopkeepers.

With the Punjab government mulling to launch the similar ban across the province, Rawalpindi administration has to brace for more challenges as it has not a good track record with regard to the enforcement of the initiatives aimed at public well-being.
“We are committed to save our generations from the use of the illicit substance (Tobacco) that is playing havoc with the lives of our youth,” Deputy Commissioner Islamabad Hamza Shafqaat said while responding to the queries about week enforcement of the anti-smoking laws in the federal capital.

He said the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration was utilizing its all out resources to enforce the tobacco control laws and had closed down 40 kiosks in H- 8 during its recent crackdown against the violators.

Hamza said the administration had step up its efforts in that regard and planned to engage the parents, teachers and citizens to discourage the menace, claiming the lives of 160, 000 Pakistanis every year.
The ICT teams, he said, had recently hold awareness sessions in Roots Millennium and Bacon House Schools, and underlined the role of teachers and parents in reducing smoking habit in the society.
Admitting the violations of certain initiatives in the city, he said the administration was carrying out fourteen other major initiatives along with past ones. The ICT administration had ensured the plantation of one million plants this year and handling affairs of shelter homes set up by the government to provide a roof and appropriate food to a large number of footpath dwellers.

About ‘No Helmet No Fuel’ initiative, he said the purpose of that measure had been achieved, claiming that around 80 per cent reduction in head injuries witnessed after strict implementation of this move.
“99 per cent ban on use of polythene plastic bag is being observed in the markets and Bazzars of Islamabad,” he asserted when asked about the reported use of the product in the city.

An official source requesting anonymity said the Rawalpindi administration had been taking action against violators of anti-smoking laws on just receiving complaints.

In the beginning, he said, the First Information Reports were lodged against the owners of fuelling stations selling petrol to the bikers without helmet and fines were also imposed. However, the pace of actions got had decreased during the last couple of months, he admitted.

When pressed for more details about the actions, he asked to contact Deputy Commissioner Rawalpindi Muhammad Ali Randhawa.
When contacted, the Deputy Commissioner did not respond despite repeated requests.
Meanwhile, a shopkeeper running kiosk in G-6 told APP that the government officials paid visits soon after the announcement of the ban and posted stickers depicting the ban on sale of loose cigarette, particularly to the under-age smokers.

He said most of shopkeepers followed their instructions but gradually they started selling the harmful product again to the under-age in loose pack due to absence of proper check and balance system

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