Murree: Story of a Rawalpindi brewery that survived amid alcohol restrictions in Pakistan


April 28, 2010

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Rawalpindi, recognised the world over for its army generals and fundamentalist mosques, is also home to Murree Brewery which has operated in the conservative Pakistani city since 1860.

Published by Thaindian News

The brewery, established to supply beer to British forces, is operating even though Muslims – who make up 95 per cent of Pakistan’s population – are prohibited from the consumption of alcohol.

The 150-year-old brewery has withstood all – riots, shutdowns and severe restrictions.

Pakistan’s laws allow non-Muslims and foreigners to buy small amounts of liquor after they obtain a special government permit.

And covertly even Muslims indulge themselves with drinks.

“Most people, they drink beer, but they don’t tell,” the Washington Post quoted Yasin Sadiq, 47, the chief brewer, as saying.

In fact those in the higher echelons of power drink openly.

Former president Pervez Musharraf was one among many Pakistani leaders having a fondness for whiskey.

But all this doesn’t make matters any simpler for Murree Brewery.

It was burnt down during the partition riots of 1947.

Then in 1977 Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto banned alcohol for Muslims.

“The leaders we’ve had over the years, they’ve always misused religion by stirring up the masses,” Isphanyar Bhandara, the brewery’s 37-year-old chief executive, said.

He added: “Alcohol is the easiest child to whip.”

Today, Murree Brewery employs nearly 700 people, a majority of them Muslim.

Taking about the brewery’s future Bhandara, a Zoroastrian, said: “You cannot be certain with the future of a brewery in Pakistan, especially now with the intolerance toward the Western way of life.” (ANI)