34 Christians Die, Over 100 Taken Ill After Drinking Tainted Liquor on Christmas Day in Pakistan

Published 02 January 2017  |  
Reuters
A woman is comforted by another as she mourns the death of a relative, who was among those who drank a locally made toxic liquor in Toba Tek Singh, Pakistan.

What was intended to be a joyous celebration of Christmas turned into a nightmare in Pakistan when at least 34 Christian partygoers died after drinking tainted home-made liquor.

More than a hundred other people also fell ill, some seriously, as a result of the tragedy that took place on Christmas Eve in a Christian neighbourhood in the town of Toba Tek Singh some 340 kilometres south of Islamabad, reports said.

Pakistani police have caught three men accused of preparing the home-made liquor mixed with aftershave, according to an AFP report. A fourth suspect died after having also drunk the toxic brew. Two are in critical condition while the fourth is in police custody, a police official said.

The lone suspect in police custody had confessed to preparing the brew by mixing it with 20 litres of aftershave and other chemicals, according to police.

It was one of the country's deadliest cases of mass alcohol poisoning.

"The men who belong to the Christian community drank liquor on the night of 25 December and went home," local police officer Mohammad Nadeem told the BBC. "Tragedy struck the next morning when many did not rise from their beds, while others got sick."

The sale of alcohol is illegal in Muslim-majority Pakistan. However, Christians and other religious minorities can still buy alcohol after securing a special permit from local and federal authorities.

Because of the strict alcohol laws in Pakistan, many non-Muslims and even Muslims are forced to brew their own liquor or buy bootlegged alcohol.

Since alcoholic beverages were banned in Pakistan in 1977, the illegal production and sale of liquor has become a multi-million dollar industry in the country.

Nadeem said the liquor consumed by the Christmas Eve partygoers was also believed to be a homemade alcohol.

Nadeem said two men were asked to buy the liquor from an illegal retailer, but the latter turned out to have run out of stock.

"The local sellers were out of stock so they went and bought it from somewhere else," the police officer explained. "Both [men] have died."

This is not the first time that there has been mass poisoning in Pakistan resulting from the consumption of homemade alcohol, The Christian Post reported.

Just last Oct. 5, Pakistani authorities reported that at least 21 people died in the city of Karachi in the Sindh province after consuming toxic liquor while celebrating the Islamic holiday Eid al-Adha.

The week before, 19 others in Karachi died from poisoning from the same cause.

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