Pak to lift liquor sale ban in govt-run hotels?

A parliamentary panel thinks lifting of a ban will help in overcoming financial problems.

Islamabad: A Pakistani parliamentary panel is expected to recommend lifting of a ban on the sale of liquor in government-run hotels and motels to enable them to overcome financial problems.

During a recent meeting to discuss the privatisation of hotels and motels run by the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC), the standing committee on tourism of the Senate or upper house of Parliament concluded that the decision to lift the ban was solely a measure to ease financial problems of the tourist-oriented units.

Nilofer Bakhtiar, the chairperson of the parliamentary committee, said: "When five-star hotels are allowed to sell liquor, what is the justification for imposing a ban on PTDC motels?"

She cited the example of Rawalpindi`s Flashman Hotel, which was profitable till the time it was allowed to sell liquor.

Since the imposition of the ban two years ago, it has run into losses, she said.

"If we want to attract maximum number of tourists, we should provide them with a complete set of facilities," she told the Express Tribune newspaper.

None of the members of the committee objected to the idea but there was no consensus either.

Bakhtiar, who was tourism minister during former military ruler Pervez Musharraf`s regime, had to resign following criticism and a `fatwa` issued by Lal Masjid clerics against her for hugging her male instructor after making a parachute jump in France.

The sale of alcohol in PTDC-run hotels and motels was banned by Tourism Minister Maulana Ataur Rehman, the brother of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman shortly after the PPP-led ruling coalition came to power in 2008.

The tourism minister has been criticised by political leaders and parliamentarians for the move, with some questioning how a leader of the hardline Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam could promote a "soft image" for Pakistan and attract foreign tourists.