Drinking alcohol is prohibited in Islam, which is why there is a stigma attached to alcoholism in Pakistan. People consume it but their favorite past time is denying that they do. The reason is that people generally look down upon you for consuming alcohol. And that is why the topic has become a taboo.
This was not always the case. Consumption of alcohol used to be generally accepted and nobody thought of you as a bad Muslim for it. The founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, used to drink occasionally. So did former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who eventually ended up putting a ban on alcohol consumption and sale in 1977.
He is famous for saying
Yes, I do drink alcohol, but at least I don’t drink the blood of the poor.
What this verdict did then was to inculcate in people a sense of hypocrisy when it came to drinking. Since it was now socially unacceptable, they did not drink out in the open but in the secret and personal gatherings. To the outside world, they were fairly righteous Muslims who did not consume alcohol.
The policy worked very well for the rich of the country, but who was to save the poor? For they were punished, sent to prison, and even publicly flogged.
The law did allow non-Muslims to consume alcohol. The shops which were granted the license of selling alcohol had to do so only to the non-Muslims. And the hotels which served alcohol to non-Muslims made them sign an agreement that the consumption was for medicinal purposes. However, when there is alcohol there is no discrimination between a Muslim and a non-Muslim. A few bucks to the police and you are good to go.
The drinking habits of former Presidents General Musharraf and Asif Ali Zardari are no secret either. But for the public eye, they would take a very radical stance against those going against the law
Pakistan even has its own local brewery called the Murree brewery. It was established in 1860 and its famous products include beer and vodka
And despite the ban on alcohol, the company continues to produce its products – it is legally allowed to. And as much as we love to deny it, Pakistanis do consume them.
According to a report by Wall Street Journal (WSJ), 10 percent of Pakistanis consume alcohol. The consumption is so much that it has almost become a problem. Alcohol addiction is very prevalent in Pakistan and a lot of rehab centers have been introduced in an effort to help the addicts. One of the major problems is also that when people want to consume alcohol and it is prohibited, they tend to buy anything which is sold to them. And what happens, as a result, is that they consume bad quality alcohol. Several cases of blindness and death have been reported due to consumption of bad alcohol.
The only way to deal with the problem is to own it. We Pakistanis like to pretend as if there is nothing wrong in the country and even if there is, let us not talk about it. A lot of problems originate as a result of this. In order to deal with the problem of alcoholism, the government must acknowledge the consumption pattern, ensure that proper standards are met and then offer help.
Pretending that the problem does not exist will not take us anywhere
cover image via cosmag.com