Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Pakistan to export beer

When I came across the report that Pakistan is going to export beer, for a moment I wondered if I’m reading it right. Yes, I was right. Indeed, Pakistan is poised to become an exporter of beer! And interestingly, Pakistan is an Islamic republic where alcohol is forbidden to 97 per cent of the population. That means 97 per cent -- 173 million people-- of Pakistanis cannot legally buy beer and offenders can face 80 lashes of the whip as a penalty under law, though no one has been lashed for drinking since the 1980s. So, if a person is a Muslim, he/she can't drink alcohol legally in Pakistan. The minority Christians and Hindus can and do drink -- one brewery, the Zoroastrian-owned Murree Brewery. Under such circumstances, I doubt if the move will not anger religious conservatives. 

An official in the Ministry of Commerce in Islamabad told The Times that a ruling this month by its Economic Committee on Trade would allow Pakistan to export beer and spirits from next year. "India would be the largest market for our alcoholic products. It would be exported through non-Muslim enterprises to non-Muslim countries," the official said.

The change in law, which requires final approval by the Prime Minister, was welcomed today by Sabih-ur-Rehman, a retired army major who runs Murree, the Pakistan brewery, in Rawalpindi. It is licenced to produce beer and spirits for consumption by foreigners and Pakistani minorities, including Christians and Hindus. "The sky is the limit. If we get the permission we plan to distribute everywhere," he said.

Alcohol exports were banned by Pakistan in 1977 by the then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the father of Benazir Bhutto, in a move to favor Islamist groups. "Pakistan is known for a lot of bad things but it is time for us to be known for some good things too, like our beer," Isphanyar Bhandara, whose family owns the brewery, said.

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