Tainted Liquor Kills 40 in Pakistan Ahead of Hindu Festival

A relative attends to a man who consumed bootleg alcohol at Civil Hospital in Hyderabad, Pakistan, March 22, 2016. Local media reported deaths following the consumption of spurious liquor in Tando Mohammad Khan. REUTERS/Akram Shahid

By Syed Raza Hassan

KARACHI, March 23 – At least 40 people, mostly from Pakistan’s minority Hindu community, have died and dozens were taken to hospital after drinking tainted liquor days ahead of a major festival, police said on Wednesday.

Most of the victims were from the Hindu Kohli community who had been drinking on Monday ahead of Thursday’s Holi festival, which marks the beginning of spring, Irfan Baluch, a senior police official in Tando Muhammad Khan district, east of Karachi, said.

“It’s a Holi celebration-related incident as mostly Hindus have been affected,” he said.

Deaths from tainted liquor, often home-brewed, have occurred periodically in Pakistan, where it is illegal for Muslims to buy or consume alcohol. Minorities need permits to buy alcohol in restricted quantities.

Non-Muslims make up only about three percent of the 190 million population of Pakistan.

In 2014, 23 people, mostly young Muslims, died and 22 were admitted to hospital after they consumed home-made toxic liquor in different parts of Karachi during the Muslim Eid holidays.

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