Killing your own, by Poison

Posted March 15, 2010 to America , Pakistan category.

A common topic in urban drawing rooms around Pakistan is how far behind the country is from the developed world. Now, that will take a whole another blog post, but one interesting metric to look at is how many people the Pakistani state deliberately kills each year by poisoning them.

So the US govt. killed at least 10,000 of it's own in a few years:
Frustrated that people continued to consume so much alcohol even after it was banned, federal officials had decided to try a different kind of enforcement. They ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States, products regularly stolen by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits. The idea was to scare people into giving up illicit drinking. Instead, by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed at least 10,000 people.
They had the good sense to stop, officially in 1933, but unofficially by 1930. Over here in Pakistan, the government continues poisoning industrial alcohol, and it doesn't seem like they're going to stop any time soon.

Even if they stop today, Pakistan would still be 80 years behind the US here. Given that it'll probably a few decades before the govt. stops poisoning it's own people, this comparison suggests that Pakistan is at least a hundred years behind. The US govt. killed less people because being a more literate society, they made better quality moonshine.

I couldn't find the exact law online, but a friend who works for a ethanol producer in Pakistan confirmed that they add poison to ensure people don't drink it. Of course, people continue to do so... every year there are hundreds of reports of people dying from alcohol poisoning. Some of these are just becuase of bad home made alchohol, but a lot of the cheap stuff uses diluted industrial ethanol, which comes pre-poisoned.

Govt. officials, Army, ISI, the urban elite and who-ever else can afford it all buy illegally imported western alcohol of course, so this poison is only for the poor. My back of the envelope calculations indicates at least a billion dollars of revenue for the bootleg alcohol trade. A significant amount of this goes as bribes to government officials, police, customs, taliban types, the army and so on, a good chunk to various mafias, and finally the rest becomes revenue for various western companies. What's missing here is any tax revenues...

Of course, alcohol poisoning is just one of the ways the Pakistani state kills its own. Another way is by forcing the poor to turn to even deadlier alternatives like hashish, heroin, morphine, opium and so on. There are over 5 million drug addicts in Pakistan. The drug trade is another source of revenue for the various baddies roaming the country, who use this money to kill more people... It's a vicious cycle. Not to mention the rampant increase in Aids, HIV and other diseases through sharing & re-using needles.

Everything is inter-connected, a fact which no Pakistani government, voter or TV channel seems to grasp.

Back of the envelope calculation for alcohol sales

Assuming 2% of the population drinks imported alchohol (and mind you, this is really really conservative), that's 3.6 million people. Now, the average person (taking into account the whole world) drinks 5 liters of pure alcohol a year. This translate into 12.5 bottles of vodka, whiskey or any other hard liquor - so narrowing it down to 10 bottles a year on average per Pakistani drinker, we get 36 million illegal bootlegged bottles a year. The average selling price is about Rs. 2000 to 2500, so that gives us 72 billion to 90 billion rupees.

The above is extremely conservative - the European average is 25 bottles a year as a comparison. The Pakistani drinker buying imported alcohol is probably at the European average or higher, which more than doubles the above numbers. Of course, the 2% number is just a guess, but I'd actually estimate the real number as being closer to 10%.

A short overview of Murree Brewery, Pakistan's best brewer: (the video errs in saying it's the only one).

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