KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan police and health officials raided cafes and restaurants in Kabul on Sunday, confiscating shisha water pipes and paraphernalia in a campaign to halt “debauchery and vulgarity”.
Critics say the campaign will only distract police from the Afghan capital’s deteriorating security situation, while doing little to change the pervasive smoking culture in the long-term.
Shisha cafes, where customers inhale fruit-flavored tobacco using pipes that draw the smoke through water, are popular public gathering spots for Afghan men. The Afghan authorities, however, say the cafes can be breeding grounds for petty criminals.
Led by the health ministry, authorities plan to go through each Kabul neighborhood this week to enforce, for the first time, a two-year-old law banning indoor smoking in restaurants.
“We have to have control over shisha cafes, which promote debauchery and vulgarity in society,” Kabul police chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi told reporters outside one of the many restaurants raided by police.
“This is a religious and Islamic society and our young generation should not waste their energy in a wrong way,” he added while standing near two pick-up trucks full of confiscated shisha pipes.
Teams of police officers on Sunday walked from one cafe to the next, confiscating pipes and ripping down pictures advertising shisha smoking. Many cafe owners and customers were taken by surprise, with a few racing out covering their faces.
Some angry customers said that police should be focusing more on protecting the community from suicide bombers and kidnappings.
“The police cannot even secure the safety of their people and are instead wasting their time on grabbing some water pipes from these small businesses,” said Saboor Bayat, a customer at Kabulistan cafe.
(Reporting by Mirwais Harooni and Randy Fabi; Editing by David Goodman)