Justice and Peace Commission prays for the 43 victims of the Christmas tainted liquor incident
by Shafique Khokhar

Most of the victims were Christians, who died consuming homemade liquor. Muslims are not allowed to consume alcoholic beverages in Pakistan. Only members of minorities and tourists are exempt from the ban. Tight controls and poverty lead to “homemade” solutions that often include methanol.

Toba Tek Singh (AsiaNews) - The National Commission for Justice and Peace of Pakistan (NCJP) has expressed deep sorrow for the death of 43 people, mostly Christians, from tainted homemade liquor at a Christmas party.

The incident occurred in Toba Tek Singh, a district in Punjab province. In addition to the dead, at least another 120 people have been hospitalised in critical condition in various hospitals in the province.

NCJP president Mgr Joseph Arshad, bishop of Faisalabad, visited the relatives of the victims and expressed to them the condolences of the entire Christian community.

"This tragic event,” he said, “turned the joyous festivity of Christmas into mourning with many lives still hang in the balance due to critical conditions” of many patients.

The prelate visited the hospital in his city, and prayed for a quick recovery of the sick and for the souls of the departed and for their families.

"Life is uncertain,” he explained, “but such untimely and terrible death is hard to cope with. May God grant you the strength to overcome this terrible loss," he told patients and relatives.

"A judiciary inquiry needs to be conducted to bring the perpetrators to justice,” said Mgr Arshad on behalf of the Commission, together with Fr Emmanuel Yousaf and Cecil Chaudhry, respectively the national director and executive director of the NCJP.

All three also appealed to government authorities to provide “compensation to the victims’ families”.

Most of the dead were Christians, including the people who brought the tainted liquor.

In Pakistan, a country with a Muslim majority, Muslims have not been allowed to consume alcoholic beverages since 1977.

Only members of the country’s minorities and tourists are allowed to purchase liquor, wine and beer from authorised dealers.

Given the extreme poverty of the population and tight controls, many people brew their own liquor, which sometimes contains harmful substances such as methanol, which is used in antifreeze and fuel.

"Most Christians do not have enough money to buy good quality liquor, tested and approved by the authorities,” said Aneel Thomas, a Christian activist.

“The result is that they prefer another route to alcoholic beverages, and use alcohol used for medical purposes, which has adverse effects on health, and can, in some cases, cause death."

"We demand a ban on substandard liquor and alcohol in Pakistan,” he added.