ISLAMABAD: A well-known food outlet in the capital has been sealed for violating the ban on plastic bags and manhandling officials from the Ministry of Climate Change and Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA).

A criminal case has also been registered against the outlet’s staff and an office-bearer of the Blue Area Traders’ Union, officials from the capital administration and police said. The police have arrested three people nominated in the FIR, along with 10 others.

In addition, the restaurant owner has been fined Rs200,000.

The incident occurred when an inspection team from the ministry and the Pak-EPA visited Blue Area, the capital’s commercial centre, to enforce the ban on plastic bags.

The team visited the local food outlet and found that the ban was being violated there.

Officials said the restaurant staff humiliated and threatened the team when they sought an explanation. Other traders, including an office-bearer of the Blue Area traders’ union, gathered at the restaurant shortly after.

They said the restaurant staff and traders manhandled the inspection team, including a senior female officer, and even physically assaulted them. The team then left the restaurant and the matter was reported to the capital administration and police.

The outlet had already received a warning from the inspection team after a large amount of plastic bags were discovered during a visit on Aug 16, they said. At the time, all the bags were confiscated.

Senior capital administration and police officials also visited the police station and decided to take action against the restaurant and all those involved after a long discussion.

Assistant Director Legal Enforcement Mohammad Ramzan lodged a complaint with the Kohsar police that led to the registration of a case under Pakistan Penal Code sections 382, 506, 354, 148, 149, 353 and 186.

Administration and police later sealed the restaurant for further legal action.

Officials from the capital administration and police said that footage of the incident, captured by various cameras, has been collected and examined.

The restaurant owner, who submitted a surety that the ban was implemented at the outlet, was also injured.

The Ministry of Climate Change later asked the capital administration to unseal the restaurant, as there is no provision to seal an outlet for violating the ban on plastic bags, they said. The administration later unsealed the outlet.

Three people were arrested and produced in the court of the magistrate, from where they were sent to Central Jail Adiala on judicial remand, officials said.

Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat has also directed for the remaining suspects to be arrested. He was informed that those who attacked and manhandled the team were moving freely in Blue Area and the police have been informed of their presence, but the police have ignored the information and have not taken action against the suspects, they said.

Officials said the incident occurred because the inspection team mishandled the situation by visiting the restaurant without a magistrate, assistant commissioner or police, and then failing to provide identification.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2019