Over the years, Karachi has become notorious for crime and violence to the extent that whenever you tell someone that you’re from Karachi you’re immediately presented with the question, “mobile kitni baar snatch hoa hai?” But for many people visiting Karachi, the notoriety isn’t limited to just street crime; many people visiting Karachi are often surprised at the discovery of the wine shops running in the city and its drinking, despite the prohibition on open sale and consumption of alcohol in the country.
It appears everyone in Karachi does it, whether they’re the richest living in their mansions or the homeless out on the streets
Karachi is also home to licensed liquor stores that are supposed to sell to “non-Muslims with a permit to consume”. But it’s an open secret that these liquor stores aren’t sustaining their businesses by just selling to licensed consumers. They have been around for quite a while now.
Given that alcohol consumption is already a taboo topic in Pakistan, the knowledge of wine sellers operating under the law brings forth a lot of questions. To feed this curiosity here are few things that we have learned about the wine shops in Karachi.
How do they operate so freely?
Before we get down to anything, else let’s discuss what our law actually says about alcohol consumption. As per the law, non-Muslims are allowed to purchase alcohol after obtaining a permit. There is some contention as to whether they are allowed to buy it for recreation or only in cases wherein it is necessary for a religious ceremony but I won’t get into the specifics of that, as that contention is subject to legal interpretation. The permit, though, prescribes a certain quota for the amount of alcohol one can purchase during a month.
As far the operation of the wine shops goes, there’s still debate whether the licenses obtained by wine sellers are in accordance with the constitution but one thing is clear that the shops are allowed to only be run by non-Muslim owners. So basically these wine shops are by non-Muslims, for non-Muslims. However, in reality, they sell alcohol to everyone without any discrimination. In fact, most of the buyers are Muslims.
One theory suggests that for each product they sell to a Muslim in their own books they make the order against a permit obtained against a non-Muslim’s CNIC. So that if they’re investigated, for all legal purposes these shops are only catering to non-Muslims.
They are also known to protect their customers. Cops generally do not stop people carrying alcohol within the vicinity of the wine shop. Shop owners allegedly pay off the cops in the neighborhoods around these shops, so they don’t disturb the patrons.
Even though they are called wine shops, they don’t just sell wine; the types of liquor sold usually include vodka, beer, whiskey and dry gin. These retailers deal in locally manufactured booze, primarily Murree Brewery.
Other brands of local alcohol that are available at the shops include products from Indus and Mehran distilleries. Prices are volatile with respect to the ongoing political climate and availability of stock.
Selling of foreign alcohol is strictly prohibited, though, since they can’t be legally imported.
Almost every locality in the city has its own wine shops
DHA alone has at least one shop in every commercial area. Despite having so many shops, shortage of stock is a common phenomenon in the city. Says a lot about the people of Karachi, doesn’t it?
People are more disciplined at a wine shop than they are at a ‘sarkari daftar‘. It’s true. You would normally picture drunk people engaging in fist fights and other shenanigans around such shops due to the abundance of alcohol that these patrons could be under the influence of. But the reality is far from it. In order to procure alcohol, the customers form a cue and no one tries to cut the other. No matter if you’re barefoot or in a Prado, everyone is equal when it comes to buying alcohol. Usually, if you’re in a car you just honk and the attendant comes to you. Kinda’ a like a drive-thru but with more personalized service.
They deliver too. They are actually more efficient in their delivery than McDonald’s is. Usually, five cans of beer or a single bottle of hard liquor is their minimum, to be able to offer delivery.
These shops are closed on Fridays and throughout the month of Ramazan. But as soon as the Eid ka chaand is seen they open their doors to very eager customers. They actually do more business on chaand raat than on New Years.
Editor’s note: We don’t in any way fully condone the consumption of alcohol nor do we condemn it. We just accept it as a reality. If you disagree with the content or want to add more please tell us in the comments.
Cover image via: pri.org