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 (

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

  • ovais

    banning it wont stop strong ppl from still drinking it. Most of alcohol consumed in pakistan is by muslimsRecommend

  • Mir

    Alcohol is forbidden not haram under Islamic law period. Please tell these JI leaders.
    Murree brewery will shut down. Alcohol will be smuggled from India and other countries.Bootleggers will become millionaires.Recommend

  • Necromancer

    Excellent and spot on and please I would like to request government to please allow sale of Imported alcohol as well in wine shops so we true Muslims should not be left with only local produce.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari
  • Noman Ansari
  • 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.

  • 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

  • تارڑ

    Moiz you hit nail on the head that is exactly how it is in western democracies even drugs are legal niw welcome to the man made law vs. The Devine Law conundrum. The west profits from irs vices and the misery of its people. Yet the alcoholic beverage makers and casinos are some of the Largest companies on planet earth raking billions in profits each year. But to do that Pakistan will have to change its society into a reflection of western model. Here is another thing while north America and Europe are fairly well off mainly due to their debt us wealth and financial prowess the same alcohol is wreaking havoc in south America and Africa. So think what you wish yiu may not like the package. Islam only hurts those who are either hypocrites or selectively believe. Believe me you are not alone the dilemma in Pakistan is that its leadership assumed westernisation could be selective. English language itself will rid Pakistan of its ills. That Islam should be personal but state can wash its hands from it a semi colonial happenstance. I can write on and on but it will be useless. So good day Moiz. Asalam AlaikumRecommend

  • 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

  • Soprano

    I don’t drink, but I’m all for legalizing alcoholic consumption in Pakistan, prohibiting drinking won’t stop the people who crave for it to find a way around the law(as we can see in Pakistan), on the other hand I know Muslims living in the west that have access to alcohol but they still don’t drink it, I know Muslims working at convenience stores that could take a sip but they don’t because their conscience won’t let them, and drinking alcohol won’t morally decay this nation, we have other vices that actually stem from the so called puritanical Muslim sects in this country.Recommend

  • Abdullah

    Can you please explain the difference between forbidden and haram? Umm..same word in two different languages?
    P.S. No pun intended!Recommend

  • Abdullah

    According to medical science, fasting for more than 16 hours in these hot and humid conditions, is also “bad” for human beings, so let’s keep them both separate.
    Religion HAS to do with banning of alcohol for Muslims in Pakistan. You can’t force non-Muslims not to consume it if they want to.Recommend

  • ptr

    Being a resident of south and central Punjab, I want to confirm that manufacturing and consumption of Desi Alcohol on regular basis and also on special occasions is a very very common and normal practice. These kind of activities come to public notice when scores of people die after consuming badly fermented alcohol. Whatever and whoever they ban, it would just be a piece of paper, nothing more than that’ No one speak against these activities just ignore them’Recommend

  • Ali

    exactly my point!Recommend

  • Adpran

    “Hopefully the author is now living in Papua/New Guinea.”

    If author was living in Papua New Guinea then he would know that abusive behavior due to alcohol already become serious issue there. That’s why there are people in Papua New Guinea who want their govt ban alcohol.Recommend

  • Moiz Omar

    Yes it is true, alcohol in extensive quantities is very bad for the human body. But even then don’t people drink? Why not legalize it and regulate it instead then? To make sure as few people as possible drink. And if they do, they drink in the safest possible manner. Plus there are ways to prevent people from drinking and driving. Such as car breathalyzers.Recommend

  • Yousaf Haque

    Guilt,speaking loud and clearRecommend

  • chanakya_the_cynic

    Just for the record, pure alcohol is not a solution. Most alcoholic beverages are solutions though.Recommend

  • Koalalala

    Every time I visit Pakistan (yes, the daring foreigner that I am), I come home with an urge to wear the shortest skirt I own and drink a large glass of vodka. I don’t even drink or like alcohol and don’t wear short skirts.

    Being in Pakistan makes me feel like a rebellious teenager.Recommend

  • jamshed_kharian_pak

    Since the creation of Islamic Republic Of Pakistan (official name only) there has been no Muslim Shariat Laws infect english laws english political system is in force in pakistan, all the big hotel used to serve pig-meat & alcohol in pakistan at will! this is the great pb for pakistan not mouving forward, pakistani english elits with long & large diplomas are master in all domains, east pakistan was lost not of Islam but of english elits, nothing is working everything is jammed & stanndstill dont mouve! peoples who are living in foreign countries is something else but with population of more than 200-millions the grand great majority are Muslims there are two worlds in pakistan one is english other one is local Islamic pakistani masses maybe we are mouving towards Islamic Revolution in pakistan like in Iran this wait & see who knows!Recommend

  • H.M.T.

    Our police force is pretty incompetent, so why not add a 180 million potential drunk drivers and alcoholics, nothing can go wrong (sarcasm).

    I consider myself a liberal, so I don’t oppose alcohol on religious grounds. It’s just that I’ve seen the statistics and it’s not pretty. Millions of deaths and many more cases of violence are brought on by alcohol. Our society is facing enough problems as it is, let’s not make matters worse. That said, I would fully encourage legalising other recreational drugs, that do not have such high mortality rates.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, plain view,
    in this Land of the Pure. Not from Papua/New Guinea.Recommend

  • Anticorruption

    Great point. I too do not support banning alcohol on religious grounds (everyone should be free to live their life according to their own values), but drinking can introduce other problems for society such as drunk driving and increased domestic violence under the influence of drugs. Looking at stats for these problems even in a country like the US does not give a particularly pretty picture, and I do not think our Pakistani police will be able to handle the problem. There is not much benefit to be derived from allowing alcohol, but it’s clear that it will create more problems for our society.

    The dumbest argument on this issue is that ‘this is a personal matter.’ Yes, if imposed on religious grounds, then it is indeed a case of imposing one’s values on others. But the claim that drinking is just a personal matter is a totally silly one when drinking does involve externalities for others. If it’s allowed, many me people will drink responsibly, but others won’t, and that can endanger people’s lives apart from being a nuisance for others.Recommend

  • Anticorruption

    When it is argued that banning is a bad idea because it does not stop people from drinking illegally, one would like to see it supported by some evidence and logic. Judging by how much people who are into drinking are always complaining about prohibition and the lack of availability of alcohol, one would think that the ban isn’t as ineffective as it is claimed after all. Yes, there are people who drink despite the ban, and there are also Muslims in western countries who do not drink even though they have access to alcohol. But surely there are also many people in Pakistan who don’t drink or drink less than they otherwise would because it is not that easily available.

    Similarly, the claim that legalizing it will result in people drinking more responsibly too isn’t supported by any evidence. On the contrary, by lifting the prohibition, we would be increasing the availability of alcohol, and that in all likelihood would increase instances of drunk driving or other forms of behavior that endangers others or at the very least is a nuisance to others.Recommend

  • nishantsirohi123

    Well people can get it anyway,
    these so called bans are nonsense, and in fact feed the black market, especially when cigarettes are sold openly .
    The government looses tax money on it, and yet people get it anyway, and since this has been going on since decades, that means that there is a full fledged network that is benefiting from this….any guesses?Recommend

  • Yousuf Jamshed

    Opium is wreaking the lives of many Pakistanis. Who is raking in the profits big western corporations. Oh yes, opium has been around for hundreds of years before these evil corporationsRecommend

  • Suresh Sethuraman

    Religious or secular, better be a communal and ban alcohol rather than be a liberal and allow vice.
    Indian governments are using revenue from alcohol to fund freebies like grinder, TV, laptop, etc. and families whose male members drink are pushed into penury.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    There’s nothing “secular” about India’s restrictions on beef production.

    Both Pakistan and India use “health reasons” to hide the obvious fact that their laws pander to one religious group that’s held superior to others.Recommend

  • Gp65

    Did you read the description of the author? He is based in Rawalpindi. He has been a regular blogger in ET – some of his views I agree with and others not so much. But he always courageously speaks his mind and is not one of those that mouths platitude from afar.Recommend

  • Gp65

    in US there is zero tolerance for drunk driving even as drinking itselg is illegal. If you think banning alcohol means there are no drunk drivers then you clearly have not heard of the term bootlegging.

    In any case ow many of the 180 million Pakistanis have a personalised mode of transport? If your argument is based on drunk driving unless alcohol is banned, it is a very weak argument.Recommend

  • Gp65

    umm alcohol is NOT banned in Christianity and Hindus live in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Mir

    Qatar duty free shop special offer in the holy month of Ramadan.

    Pakistani are more Muslims than Arabs. Please stay as south Asian muslims as our pareents and grand parents. Please do not try to become what you are ?
    Allah Bless Pakistan and our old IslamRecommend

  • Mir

    Please check the difference of these words in Arabic language ,

    Haraam (Arabic: حَرَام‎ ḥarām) is an Arabic term meaning “sinful”.
    Forbidden, is not sinful but prohibited.Recommend

  • H.M.T.

    Yes, there is zero tolerance in the US but that doesn’t stop people from driving drunk. Banning alcohol means that they are fewer drunk drivers. Bootlegging cannot and never will match the levels of alcohol availability when alcohol is legal. It’s like saying heroin should be legal because people can still get it illegally. By banning things, the government insures that only a small segment of society will ever use it. Pakistan does not have a strong drinking culture, nor a very high alcohol related crime rate (read the latest WHO report related to alcohol and health). I think it would be best if we kept it that way. What we do have is a drug-abuse problem, that needs to be tackled head on. Adding alcohol to the mix, by making it readily available, will only make matters worse.

    “In any case ow many of the 180 million Pakistanis have a personalised mode of transport?”

    Read my original post again. I said drunk drivers and alcoholics. That doesn’t just mean drunk driving but things like street brawls and domestic abuse etc.

    Again, I’m not basing my position on religious guidelines like many Pakistanis do (I’m an atheist). Just facts, and studies that have shown alcohol to be one of the most destructive drugs in existence, just look at the ISCD chart/study that I’ve attached.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

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

  • Abdullah

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

  • Abdullah

    Sir, probably you don’t have given enough thought to your words before writing this comment. You previously stated that it had nothing to do with religion. And your arguments about Azaan and Hijab actually support my point :) They have banned azaan and hijab beacuse of some security or other issues NOT because their religion doesn’t allow them to hear the words of Azaan or their religion forbids women to wear veils. In Pakistan, it’s quite different. Not consuming alcohol has nothing to do with “norms and rules” It’s banned because Islam doesn’t allow us to consume it, and even it has to do with norms and rules, don’t forget it’s Islamic Republic of Pakistan and constitution is (mostly)in accordance with Islamic laws!

    And why we all protested so much when a province of China prohibits their workers from fasting? They also think it’s “bad” for human health.Recommend

  • Prashant

    Who cares as long as I get the kick that I need so much every weekend.Recommend

  • Prashant

    ” It’s like saying heroin should be legal because people can still get it illegally. ”

    Paan and cigarette harms health more than Alcohol. Has that been banned in Pakistan?

    Let me guess your answer”

    ” Its like saying Alcohol should be legal just because Paan and cigarette has not yet been banned”Recommend

  • Prashant

    “Both Pakistan and India use “health reasons” to hide the obvious fact that their laws pander to one religious group that’s held superior to others.”

    One religious group in majority compared to others and not superior.Recommend

  • Anticorruption

    If the argument is that prohibition doesn’t work because many people still consume it, then it’s a non-sequitur. Yes, many people still consume it, but the question is whether there is overall less consumption with the ban than there would otherwise be. Does bootlegging really reach the level of consumption we would have if alcohol was legalized? Judging by the complaints one hears from those who are into drinking about lack of easy availability due to prohibition, it seems that the ban may not be a total failure after all. Can proponents of lifting the ban really make an honest argument that doing so will not significantly increase alcohol consumption and result in more problems for society like increased incidents of drunk driving, domestic violence etc?Recommend

  • H.M.T.

    “Paan and cigarette harms health more than Alcohol. Has that been banned in Pakistan”

    Smoking cigarettes in public has been banned almost everywhere, including Pakistan. Cigarette smoke harms other people, hence why you can’t smoke outside your own home in many countries. Your argument falls flat because smoking can not kill non-smokers when it is banned in public. Alcoholics behind the wheel on the other hand, after drinking at home, manage to ram into innocent people all the time.

    As for Pann, I’m yet to see it come up in any study. Might be bad for the paan eater’s health but it isn’t behind millions of cases of manslaughter/murder ever year, unlike alcohol. I’m sorry but alcohol is a dangerous drug and every health, psychological and public safety study out there seems to agree. It claims more lives than any other drug out there, and that is a fact.Recommend

  • Prashant

    Let me tell you I have smoked at public places when it is banned as for the rules and I have no regrets about it. I am an alcoholic and a chain smoker and I am proud of it. Good luck to you and I have no disrespect for your beliefs and opinion.Recommend

  • H.M.T.

    Btw, I never had strong opinions about drinking, but my eyes opened up while writing a psychology paper in college on drug use. I have nothing against drinkers but the drink itself. I realise that many people can drink responsibly but sadly a number of people can not. Hence, why I think a blanket ban in Pakistan is currently the best solution, and also why I can not logically support legalisation.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