Corona virus: Closure of bars, price hikes and dangerous alternatives being used during lockdown in Pakistan

  • 'The liquor was closed due to lockdown. So we bought spirits from the market and mixed them in water and drank them to check, after which our health deteriorated.

    That’s Arslan’s saying. They are the only lucky ones who survived after drinking raw alcohol. While four of his friends have died from drinking raw alcohol.

    The incident happened last week in Hyderabad’s second largest city, Hyderabad, when five people were brought to a civil hospital for drinking alcohol. But four people, including two brothers, were killed. Arslan says he used to drink alcohol daily but shops were closed so he experimented.

    The measures have been taken in connection with the lockdown in Pakistan. In response, some people have resorted to drugs, homeopathic remedies or spirits.
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    Lockdown and bar closures

    The example of Sindh can be taken in this regard. The provincial government closed bars on a one-day notice in a lockdown to curb the spread of the corona virus in Sindh.

    The closure continued to expand and, according to the current order, the closure will continue until April 30.

    According to the Sindh Excise and Taxation Department, there are 21 wholesalers across the province who serve liquor in bars, hotels and events. There are 159 licensed pubs, most of which are located in Karachi and sell liquor to non-Muslims.
    Image copyright Govt of Sindh
    Image caption The Sindh government had ordered the bar to remain closed till April 2, but now it has been extended till April 30.
    Increase in demand on international lines

    Demand for this specialty has grown significantly as a result of recent corporate scandals in many parts of the world. Globally, bars are open in some countries and closed in others. Even though the bar is closed, alcohol can be bought in some countries, but it is advisable to avoid decorating wine parties.

    In the United States alone, alcohol sales have risen by 50 percent. According to a report in Forbes Magazine, in the days of the plague, when all businesses were in decline, the liquor business was not only thriving but growing.
    ‘Consumption high in Sindh’

    There are liquor factories in the name of Murree Beaver, Quetta Distillery and Mehran Distillery in Pakistan. Sindh province, owner of Murree Beaver, said that only 60% of the production of his beaver consumes in Sindh province.

    According to the Election Commission of Pakistan, the number of Hindu voters in Sindh province is more than 3 million. The other minority is the Christian community, while the Parsis and Sikhs are also settled. Most of the liquor licenses in the province are held by Hindus while some Christians in Karachi also sell liquor.

    According to the information obtained from the owners and managers of pubs in Karachi, 300 liters of liquor is sold daily from the pub located at Malir 15. In Issa Nagri, where the Christian population is high, 500 to 600 liters are sold daily. Thus, up to 300 liters of wine is taken from Memon Goth brewery.

    According to the owner of a bar located in the main commercial center of the city, the bars near the working class and the poorer sections have higher sales. Consumers often shop for themselves, which leads to more sales of ‘Poe and Pint,’ a half-liter bottle.
    Image copyright Getty Images

    According to wine owners, the sale of wine brands is based on the season. As it is hot now, there will be more sales of ‘gin’ brand and ‘beer’, while ‘vodka’ is more preferred in winter.
    The trend of hoarding before Ramadan

    All bars in Pakistan are closed during the month of Ramadan. According to the owners, sales increase by 40% before the arrival of Ramadan. The reason, he says, is that people already stock up on alcohol for fear of closure.

    During Ramadan, the supply continues through bootleggers or liquor dealers, but the price is higher than normal prices.
    Lockdown and daily users

    The bars were closed on a day’s notice in the lockdown. According to a user, his bootlegger informed him and he ordered some goods. Little did they know that the lockdown would be prolonged.

    Another customer said that he also thought that the shops would open in a few days. But the closure lasted longer.

    A consumer said that a one-liter bottle of Pakistani gin, which was available at Rs 1,500 to Rs 1,700, is currently selling at Rs 7,000. While foreign brands are selling at least Rs 10,000 to Rs 18,000 a liter. “Alcohol prices have never risen so much in the past,” he said.

    Some users said they were using “alternatives” that included drugs.

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