Stop issuing liquor permits to Pakistani religious minorities. By Sheraz Khurram Khan


It is an open secret that Islamic fundamentalists pressed for many of the constitutional amendments that go against the rights of the religious minorities in Pakistan. Blasphemy Law and Hudood Ordinance are glaring among the laws, which are being wid

After transforming Jinnah's Pakistan into an Islamic Republic the Islamists should have done the people of this land another 'favour of banning liquor's brewing, its movement and sale across the country. The ban could have easily been executed by introducing another constitutional amendment, and it would have come as no surprise as the country's constitution has seen a host of these over the years. It is an open secret that Islamic fundamentalists pressed for many of the constitutional amendments that go against the rights of the religious minorities in Pakistan. Blasphemy Law and Hudood Ordinance are glaring among the laws, which are being widely misused against them. Leaving the government aside, the civil society's role has also been discouraging in pressing for ban on liquor in the country. Religious hawks, who, otherwise spare no chance to tell the believers of Islam that liquor is forbidden and that the taker of liquor is condemned to hell, have not pressed for such a ban. It would be interesting to discuss as to why the status quo vis-à-vis liquor remains in Pakistan. The religious minorities, whose socio-economic situation is shocking beyond belief, take the entire scourge that goes with the liquor in an Islamic country whereas Pakistani Muslims are only covert consumers of liquor. A majority of Pakistani religious minorities including Christians live below the poverty line; therefore, despite being in possession of a license to purchase liquor the majority of the end consumers are Muslims. After bearing the stigma of legalized liquor consumers, most of the people from religious minorities have got into the business of selling liquor in their bid to water down their financial miseries. Ideally, only the license holder of liquor should be its consumer. The possessor of the license is not authorized to sell the liquor but the underhand sale of liquor is showing no decline. Why should the religious minorities alone be at the receiving end of condemnation when majority of Pakistani Muslims, most of whom are offshoots of affluent families are also consuming liquor that reaches them through indirect channels? The religious minorities do not want this 'facility', which only goes to their negative profiling. The sanctimonious religious leaders as well as the hypocrite Muslims in Pakistan who themselves consume liquor brand Pakistani minorities, Christians in particular, in negative shade while airing their views on the subject. Without having carried out any research that whether Christianity or other religions allow their followers to consume liquor they hold that except Islam the consumption of liquor is allowed in all other religions of the world. They even go to the extent of leveling a fallacious charge that Christians also drink liquor during Church services and on other religious festivals. I fail to understand why do they not criticize consumption of liquor by the elite and plutocratic class of this country on New year Night as well as on marriage ceremonies and other such festivals. Of late, Michael Ireland, a British journalist filed a story with Assist News Service (ANS) that unveils the misery of a Pakistani Christian, who was thrashed inhumanly by some Muslim men who assaulted him after having consumed liquor. Pakistani Christian religious leaders have time and again dismissed these charges but of no avail as the stigma on them (Christians) concerning liquor consumption stays un-eroded. The argument that the liquor permits are being issued to people from religious communities to accommodate them is a very flimsy one. Why are religious minorities of Pakistan are not being accommodated on other fronts? Why does their representatives' strength in the national assembly remain restricted to 4-5? What is the reason behind their complete absence in the Senate, the upper house of parliament? Why reserved seats for Pakistani minority women were not allocated in the national assembly by the incumbent government while the same was done for Muslim women of Pakistan? LENT is approaching fast. Those Pakistani Christians who fast during LENT would do so despite the fact that everyone around them in restaurants, hotels and other eating outlets would be eating publicly. This is in sharp contrast to that of Ramadan, Muslims holy month during which a non-Muslim can hardly even think of eating publicly for he knows the 'custodians' of Islam could do anything from thrashing to handing him over to police for violating the sanctity of Ramadan. In this backdrop it is not difficult to understand that the religious minorities are accommodated when the facility granted to them also serves the purposes of majority. Of late, there came a proposal that the revenue generated from the sale of liquor should be used for minorities' uplift. This evoked resentment and outrage from Christians and other minorities communities of Pakistan. They condemned the proposal and termed it unwise. The logic behind this 'lofty act of munificence' is this that since both liquor and revenue generated from its sale is deemed Haram (unholy) in Islam, therefore, there is least harm in using the proceeds for the betterment and development of minorities of Pakistan. Pakistani minority leaders have rightly condemned the proposal because, if materialized, it would set the precedent of hurling every unwanted, bad and evil thing on minorities. Before maligning Pakistani religious minorities vis-à-vis consumption of liqour it would be wise on the part of the critics to sweep before their own doors and see as to how far they have successfully resisted the temptation of staying away from consuming liquor. Those engaged in the frenzy effort of trying to Islamize the country should lead the campaign of seeking ban on liquor in Pakistan. Why there is a lack of will on the part of so called champions of Pakistan, who otherwise have recently provoked people to join them in their inane opposition of mixed-gender marathon in Lahore? The MMA hawks, who after succeeding to make government in NWFP province removed the billboards and other advertisements that had images of women should take the initiative of getting liquor banned in Pakistan. If they succeed this would save millions of Pakistani Muslims to stay away from liquor, which is strictly forbidden in Islam. Besides, it would also help remove the stigma of liquor consumption from religious minorities

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