Monday September 25, 2023

Interfaith harmony

March 11, 2017

The sale and purchase of alcohol is permitted in Pakistan to non-Muslims. Article 37(h) of the constitution prevents the consumption of alcohol other than for medicinal and, in the case of non-Muslims, religious purposes.

I have submitted my petitions in the Sindh High Court and Supreme Court regarding the sale of alcohol. While complaints by non-Muslims are very common regarding their neglect in the process of national development, they are also victimised through their association with the alcohol business. I consider this to be a major reason of resentment against non-Muslims in Pakistan.

Last year, when the Sindh High Court had ordered all wine shops closed across the province the move was warmly welcomed by non-Muslims. All segments of society, including Muslims, also assured their cooperation to extend the efforts to curb the alcohol business throughout Pakistan. Non-Muslims were relieved that they would no longer be connected with the wine trade. However, the wine sellers approached the Supreme Court to challenge this order. It was apparently a very strange situation where non-Muslim representatives were supporting the ban on wine shops.

Many interesting facts were revealed during the court hearing. For example, it was revealed that wine shops and alcohol production are more that what is required by the non-Muslim population in Sindh. The Supreme Court sent back the appeal of the sellers to the Sindh High Court with the advice to hear their view point, but that was wrongly publicised as the Supreme Court allowing the sale of alcohol again.

In simple words, it was claimed that alcohol is allowed in religions other than Islam. Now, recently, the Sindh High Court has in response to my petition once again ordered all wine shops closed, and asked to define a mechanism to regulate the f alcohol business going on in the name of non-Muslims.

To promote interfaith harmony, I used to study religious books of various faiths and exchange views with different religious leaders. Due to this, I would like to emphasise that it is not only in Islam that alcohol is forbidden but in all other religions as well. According to the teachings of Askand -1, Adhya – 17, Shilok – 38, 39, 40, 41 in the Hindu Holy Book, ‘Shrimad Baghwat Puran’, consumption of alcohol is not allowed, especially for decision-makers. The Hindu holy book, ‘Manu Smriti’ Chapter 9, verse 235 also condemns the use of alcohol. In ‘Guru Granth Sahib’ on page 1377, Baba Guru Nanak Sahib too warns strongly against consuming wine.

Let’s have look at some teachings of the Bible. The ‘Book of Proverbs’ contains serious warnings against indulging in alcoholic beverages. “Wine mocks those who use it and rewards them with woe, sorrow, strife, and wounds without cause,” A Buddhist monk by the name of Master Hsing Yun in his book ‘The Five Precepts’ mentions that it is forbidden to consume even a little alcohol. Buddhists are required to avoid all kind of intoxicating items, including smoking. Similarly, there are many verses on the prohibition of alcohol in Mosaic law and the Talmud under Judaism.

I have visited a number of countries but I have never seen the kind of injustice that non-Muslims here in Pakistan are facing. Hypocritical access to wine shops is being provided under the cover of non-Muslim religions. Many media reports revealed that Muslim citizens have free access to wine shops. Even during the court hearing, it was discussed how a Muslim citizen can obtain alcohol by showing the identity card of a non-Muslim.

Alcohol is consumed across the globe, most particularly in the developed countries but there are rules and regulations in this regard. Drinking in public places and driving while drunk are punishable crimes there. Temperance movements against the consumption of alcoholic beverages are also popular in many parts of the West. The movement typically criticises excessive alcohol consumption and asks the government to regulate the availability of alcohol or even its complete ban.

If a total ban is not possible then, like in other countries, access to alcohol should be legally open to all, regardless of religion, so that if any adult Pakistani citizen – keeping all the negative circumstances in mind – still consumes alcohol, it will be considered his/her own personal decision with no link with any religion. The business should not be justified in the name of any religion.


The writer is a member of the NationalAssembly and patron-in-chief of Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani