Can Pakistan ban alcohol for non-Muslims? Not ethically!

Published: July 23, 2014

To impose an exception less ban on alcohol would be the equivalent of forbidding non-Muslims from practicing their religion freely.

As the nation slides down the slippery slope of prohibition, progressives entrench their nails into its icy surface, resisting the imposition of Islamic dicta on the state’s non-Muslim subjects.

The National Assembly Standing Committee on Law, Justice and Human Rights stated its opposition to the proposal to impose a complete nationwide ban on alcoholic beverages, revoking the exemption provided to non-Muslims in Pakistan.

It is a restriction Pakistan’s ultra-right political parties have long pushed for. JUI-F MNA, Maulana Shirani, has been particularly vocal in this regard. The proposition implies a constitutional amendment, which has faced a welcome amount of resistance from the moderate quarters.

For consistency’s sake, my opinion on this matter is the same as my opinion on Hinduism-inspired laws is some Indian states restricting cow slaughter for all citizens. I’ve made it a habit of holding my tongue on religious affairs, leaving the discussions to more scholarly men. But on a matter of principle, I find it imperative to speak out when a religious group – any religious group – devices self-centric laws that impinge on the liberties of other groups.

I’ve even expressed my reservations towards the imposition of the law on Muslims. A government entrusted with the authority of making a better Muslim out of you by preventing you from drinking, could potentially enact a law that drags you to court for missing your obligatory Fajr prayer.

I’ve long surrendered to the practical limitations of applying these liberal theories in Pakistan. But to have the prohibition expand, to devour even the non-Muslims, is inconceivable to any rational mind.

For starters, it means outlawing the “blood of Christ” itself; which Catholics believe is obtained through ‘transubstantiation’ of wine which is ceremoniously served to the believers. To impose an exception less ban on alcohol would be the equivalent of forbidding non-Muslims from practicing their religion freely. Luckily, the Prohibition Order of 1979 takes note of such conundrums, and empathically provides an exemption.

Then there’s the matter of non-Muslim visitors to Pakistan. There are few daring foreign officials, businessmen and tourists who aren’t dissuaded from coming to Pakistan by security threats and a plethora of inhospitable laws. Let us put to test their stubbornness in visiting our country, by denying them alcoholic beverages too.

The right-wing sometimes challenges the exemption as a loophole through which bootlegged alcohol reaches Muslims. The fact that the law is sometimes used for nefarious means does not negate the non-Muslims right to not have Islamic rules imposed on them.

Let us no longer pretend that liquor magically jumps off a store shelf, and pours itself down the gullets of devout Muslims. And more urgently, let us stop congratulating ourselves for looking after our minorities whilst finding more ways to force our beliefs on them.

Do you think it is fair to impose an alcohol ban on non-Muslims in Pakistan?

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Faraz Talat

Faraz Talat

A medical doctor and bubble-wrap enthusiast from Rawalpindi, who writes mostly about science and social politics (and bubble-wrap). He tweets @FarazTalat (twitter.com/FarazTalat)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Noman Ansari
  • Noman Ansari
  • http://www.facebook.com/zubairj M. Zubair Javed

    First of All, Not a Single religion in this world allows Alcohol, In every Major Religion Drinking Alcohol is Prohibited and as far as Islam is concerned; Islam can’t even be forced upon Muslims let alone Non Muslims.. but As far as the state goes, Banning Alcohol shouldn’t be a problem after all every country have a society and a certain way every country wants to progress, If some country wishes to Ban Alcohol, i don’t see a problem there.Recommend

  • salman

    This is all temporary. People generally come to their senses and such useless laws such as the alcohol ban etc will go away and you will see a more open society soon.Recommend

  • Faisal

    Why alcohol is banned in Pakistan for Muslims only? cuz according to Islam its bad for human beings and your medical science proves it.
    It should be banned for all the Pakistanis irrespective of their religions. Religion has nothing to do with it. in USA its forbidden to drink n drive and I guess they r gonna ban it at all.Recommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    Sane article . Banning anything will only increase the contraband market .Recommend

  • BlackJack

    Yep, this is the biggest concerns of minorities in Pakistan – what are they going to do if booze is not available. How will they survive?Recommend

  • Moiz Omar

    Instead of banning things such as alcohol, why not legalize them, regulate them and tax them? The crime rate will go down and it will make a lot of revenue!Recommend

  • Ahsan Latif

    Blogger should have researched completely, It is the non muslims who have demanded this ban. For your info Read this.
    http://tribune.com.pk/story/716046/plea-for-prohibition-cii-for-indiscriminate-ban-on-alcohol-consumption/Recommend

  • SamarYz

    That’s great. No one has the right to impose their morals on others.Recommend

  • SamarYz

    I’m all for consuming alcohol…but the reason I don’t mind the ban (on the majority) in Pakistan is that our authorities will not be able to handle drunk driving.Recommend

  • Zahir

    With this blog, Pakistan is now a developed country !! Congratulations everyone :DRecommend

  • David Billa

    pak will definitely ban alcohol if only non-muslim consuming it,like non-muslims not allowed for precedent/headRecommend

  • Hunza wala

    Hopefully the author is now living in Papua/New Guinea. Because with this kind of blog he is challenging Mulla Fazl and Mulla Shirani of CII. This will only incite illiterates and fanatics into a frenzy. If the Burqa Mulla can name a library
    after Osama and a mosque named after Qadri [killer of Gov. Taseer] then….
    Sure, author’s bravery is commendable in writing this. But as they say:
    “It is easy to be brave from a distance”Recommend

  • نائلہ

    If no one speaks up about a topic just because of dangers from religious fanatics, this country will not get any better. I dont necessarily support the views of the author, but by staying quite, you are giving them more power.Recommend

  • نائلہ

    You’re funny :)Recommend

  • abdullah

    The author clearly misses the point. His argument comparing with India is baseless. India is a secular country where religion based probihitions are discriminatory. This is certainly not the case for Pakistan which is indeed a religious state.Recommend

  • abhi099

    these are the same muslims who dont take passengers with dogs in their taxis in western countries ( I have seen this news in canada news websites ) and also demand sharia(uk) but when in their own country they impose 100′s of restrictions on non muslims. Recommend

  • abhi

    Thanks for writing this. This was the biggest concern of minorities in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    It’s a concern. I never stated it’s the biggest one.Recommend

  • Faisal

    Every society has its norms and rules, Just like in some societies loud speakers for Azaan bothers them n they have banned it, Plus hijab is also a security threat in some societies, same is the case with alcohol in our society.
    Consuming alcohol is a bad thing and many muslims here are safe from it just cause of some regulations, others consume it cause of those non-muslim suppliers who have the permits.
    Alcohol is bad for humans and it should be banned for all Pakistanis as a state law, or you don’t consider the non-muslims human beings?Recommend

  • privali

    Will be doing everyone favor if do so Recommend

  • privali

    Will be doing everyone favor if do so Recommend

  • Rafay Hussain

    *Slow clapping*Recommend

  • Secular

    Alcohol is banned in Islam and Christianity, and Hindus don’t visit #pakistan.
    So let the drunk be banned…Recommend

  • Hunza wala

    “It is easy to be brave from a distance”..did you read it?
    You know who said the above quote? Not Jinnah, not Gandhi
    not Indira, but a an obscure unknown Cheyenne.
    That means, if the blogger has the guts,..Walk The Talk.
    Not to make observations, while safely outside, somewhere. Do your activism in …”Sight” Speak up for minorities,..in plain view,
    in this Land of the Pure. Not from Papua/New Guinea.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    I know but they didn’t post my counter meme. :(Recommend

  • Abdullah

    ..and what’s the Arabic term for “Forbidden”? :|Recommend

  • WS

    It’s funny when people say things like “Islam should be personal…” etc etc. Anyway, no one’s gonna intrigue and jump over in someone’s personal issues but man: states have ideologies. Pakistan is a state belonging to 97% Muslims, and what’s more its constitution, its basics, its creation evolved around this a priori fact of development of Islamic society. First thing: making Pakistan secular WON’T solve the problems because it’s run totally by a single sect. Personal issues can be kept personal, but arguing over and shouting for such controversial and unfathomable revolutions in whole system will not be very helpful for future. One must know and preserve their customs, like West did.Recommend

  • Saad Ali

    Any government can ban alcohol for its citizens.. there are enough medical reasons for that. Every other day we read news about groups of people dying from consuming sub standard liquor.Recommend