Prohibition Strikes Again: Illegal Alcohol Kills 21 in Pakistan


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Except for a few busybodies yearning for the halcyon days of the Volstead Act, even otherwise delusional drug warriors concede that legal alcohol isn't a terrible idea (if for the wrong reasons). But for our allies in Pakistan, it's a different story. Alcohol is illegal for Muslims in the deeply religious country, leading to the predictable congeries of negative consequences—such as death from the Pakistani equivalent of bathtub gin. The Washington Post reports:

In a span of 24 hours this week, at least 21 people died in Karachi from drinking toxic liquor, health officials said Wednesday. The victims represented a cross section of residents in Pakistan's largest city, and officials are worried that the death toll will mount.

Officials are hopeful they will catch the culprits who distilled the toxic spirits. But just as capturing drug kingpins doesn't do much to stem the flow of narcotics, it's unlikely that a government crackdown will have any effect on the burgeoning industry:

Officials say bootlegging has become a multimillion-dollar industry in Pakistan since alcohol consumption was banned in 1977 under then-Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

Pakistan used to have fairly liberal alcohol laws, until a growing religious conservatism took root in the '60s and '70s:

Still, in the ensuing decades, underground establishments sold beer and wine in cities such as Islamabad. But many of them closed after thousands of students with links to conservative preachers launched a wave of terror against "un-Islamic" activities in the capital in 2007.

Righteous teetotalling crusades against tipplers haven't decreased alcohol consumption—they've just forced it underground, making drinking more dangerous. Not even the prospect of 80 lashes can deter the thirsty.

Other Muslim countries such as Iran have similar alcohol policies—and similar problems. There, the high price of smuggled liquor has driven many to buy homemade booze. Last year, a bad batch killed seven and hospitalized dozens.

This should come as no surprise, given the abundant evidence from America's own ignoble experiment in alcohol prohibition. In countries with legal alcohol, no one needs to worry about their Skol vodka being any more toxic than it's supposed to be—as long as prohibitive taxes don't drive the market into the shadows, that is.

The benefits of legalization extend to other drugs. In Colorado, marijuana stores now offer a wide range of potency in their products to entice customers. They are bowing to consumer kings with lower tolerances who don't want to fall into a zonked-out paranoia a la Maureen Dowd. Gone are the days buying schwag from a guy in the alleyway who doesn't know a sativa from salvia.

If puritanical prohibitionists in Muslim countries refuse to learn the right lessons from alcohol and marijuana prohibition, they can look forward to more disasters like those in Karachi.

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  1. Saved us using a drone on a wedding party. Cost effective. I approve.

  2. We all know the black market isn’t prohibition’s fault.

  3. Alt text: Sunnyvale Trailer Park FTW

  4. Puritanical types don’t necessarily see the death of drinkers as a bad thing, just the wages of sin. It’s hard to convince the truly hardcore among them with this type of argument. I’m guessing that difficulty is magnified with Muslims, where they have direct prohibition in their scriptures against booze.

    1. hardcore

      Go out and fight bottled violence!

  5. Are you sure there isn’t some way to blame this on America? I regularly hear that the rise of Islamic radicalism is our fault, but I’m having trouble figuring out how we caused Pakistan to prohibit alcohol in 1977.

    1. Prohibition Amendment, duh.

  6. I once went to an Afghan/Pakistan party right on the border of the NWFP. Everybody, even the local imams and elders were drinking alcohol, albeit under the table. The band rocked, even though they were playing what amounted to a tree-stump drum, an accordion, and a guitar that looked like it was made out of a tree branch and some inner-tubes. The youngest guy was dressed up like a belly-dancer with mascara, and the looks on the faces of the older guys was more gay than two guys licking the same ice-cream-cone. The moral of the story is that the whole “muslims don’t drink or engage in homosexuality” myth is fucking bullshit. They’ll drink and butt-fuck each other at the drop of a hat, and tell you that they don’t, while they’re washing the shit off their dicks with whiskey.

  7. This is more important than Rotherham. Yup.

  8. The correct term is “undocumented alcohol”, thank you very much.

  9. Its pretty fucking hard to make poisonous alcohol on accident. Even in a ‘still, the average methanol content is less than 1% of the distillate. Usually this is the result of either stealing denatured alcohol and redistributing it or intentionally adulterating the alcohol with something toxic.

    1. The problem isn’t always methanol. A lot of the bad booze during Prohibition had toxic levels of lead from radiator tubing, or other metal contamination from whatever containers were used. There were also cases where bootleggers would create poisonous combinations with flavoring and such.

      Black market R&D sucks.

  10. Meh,

    What’s the point of this article?

    This is a minor case of death by toxic alcohol. Bigger death tolls have happened with Arak on Bali where there is plenty of legal alcohol available.

  11. Looks like need to start carpet bombing everywhere from Algeria to Indonesia with sweet, sweet, illegal alcohol. Clash of Civilizations would be over in a couple weeks.

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