Flowing from underground

Seized liquor in Islamabad
Flowing from underground
Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

Step one of 12 for addiction recovery is admitting you have a problem—something a growing number of Pakistanis are doing, despite the fact the country has been “dry” since 1977. Alcoholism is reportedly booming: addiction clinics cite a growing demand for counselling, an Alcoholics Anonymous group has popped up in Karachi, and one prominent addiction counsellor recently told the Guardian that of the 10 million Pakistanis who drink, one million have a problem.

Under Islamic law, the punishment for boozing in “the land of the pure” is 80 lashes. But that doesn’t stop smugglers from bringing vodka across the Chinese border, and whisky in on boats from Europe. The country’s only brewery, set up to serve non-Muslims, flourishes near Rawalpindi. Bootleggers will also deliver right to the home.

There have been efforts to overturn the alcohol ban. As recently as 2007, parliamentarians called on the government to relax the laws, arguing that prohibition was turning more people on to hard drugs, or forcing them underground to drink. For now, though, rising alcoholism and religious fundamentalism will continue to coexist.