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South Korea protests N Korean diplomats` bootlegging in Pakistan

The reverberations of the escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula are being felt in Pakistan.

Islamabad: The reverberations of the escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula are being felt in Pakistan, where South Korea has complained about the alleged involvement of North Korean diplomats in bootlegging.

South Korea is "at odds with Islamabad" over the alleged involvement of North Korean mission staff in illegally selling imported liquor to the Pakistani public.

Seoul`s mission in Islamabad has taken up the issue with Pakistani authorities, insisting that such activities violate UN sanctions, The Express Tribune reported on Thursday.

The matter came to light when officials of the Defence Housing Authority in Karachi received complaints from residents about the "illegal activities" of North Korean consulate staff in Pakistan`s largest city.

The DHA`s administration formed a team to watch the North Korean consulate staff to verify the authenticity of the complaints. After completing its investigation, the team confirmed that the consulate staff was involved in illegally selling liquor.

Strangely, the DHA`s administration wrote a letter to the South Korean embassy in Islamabad, seeking action against North Korean diplomats.

This drew the ire of the South Korean embassy, which clarified to the DHA that it had nothing to do with North Korean diplomats.

Subsequently, the DHA apologised for the mistake.

The South Korean embassy confirmed the development. It said it had taken up the matter with the Pakistan`s Foreign Ministry as it had caused embarrassment for the South Koreans.

Diplomatic sources told The Express Tribune that the South Korean mission requested Pakistan to stop North Korean diplomats from selling alcohol.

There was no word on the issue from the North Korean embassy.

Pakistan`s Foreign Ministry spokesman said he was not aware of the controversy and would have to check with concerned officials.

The Prohibition Order of 1979, a law passed during the regime of military ruler Zia-ul-Haq, barred the consumption of liquor by Muslims in Pakistan but the country has a thriving bootlegging industry.

Alcohol is available at a premium in most Pakistani cities. Non-Muslims need to obtain a special permit to buy limited amounts of alcohol every month.

Unlike the more conservative provinces of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, alcohol is more openly sold across Sindh, especially in Karachi.

It is an open secret that staff of diplomatic missions of several smaller nations are involved in selling liquor in cities like Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore.