IT IS an Islamic republic where alcohol is forbidden to 97 per cent of the population and drinkers can face 80 lashes of the whip under holy law – but in a move set to anger religious conservatives, Pakistan is poised to become an exporter of beer.
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 Brewery, in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. It is licensed to produce beer and spirits for consumption by foreigners and Pakistani minorities, including Christians and Hindus.
The owners of Murree Brewery say that demand for their beer is growing. Picture: AP“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. Under Pakistani law, drinking alcohol is illegal for Muslims – who make up 97 per cent of the country’s 173 million people – although no one has been lashed for drinking since the 1980s.