Behind many closed doors tonight in Pakistan, more people than you care to imagine are going to pop open a beverage that is older than Coca Cola, has more sugar than Pakola and when consumed heavily, needs to be followed up with some Joshanda. I am talking about the largest alcoholic beverage available in Pakistan: Murree Beer.
I am not joking about Murree being older that Coca Cola either. Murree Brewery was founded in 1860 while Coca Cola was introduced in 1886. Had things taken a different turn and Bhutto not prohibited alcohol, we might have even been watching ‘Murree Studio’ today. It would look a lot like Coke Studio but with a much heavier Rumi influence I am sure.
A public limited company by day whose products are privately consumed by night, like it or not Murree Brewery is a superhero to many Pakistanis, giving them relief after a long hard day of work, and also helping them beat the heat during the many hours of load shedding at night.
In a day and age when gay people can come out of the closet in America and be supported by Barak Obama, the least we can do in the name of progress is finally take the Murree out of the cabinet. And who better to endorse Murree than our President Asif Ali Zardari. It is a tough stand but he should take a shot. Come to think of it, he probably already has.
I know many of you are uncomfortable with this debate, but it is not I who brought the topic out into the mainstream media. A few weeks ago Scout Willis, daughter of the famous Hollywood actor Bruce Willis was caught drinking a cold can of Murree beer in New York City.
This upsets me for a number of reasons.
Firstly, everyone knows that when you drink a Pakistani beer you drink it discreetly. For Ms Willis to get caught shows a blatant disregard for our cultural practices. The fact that she did not even try to bribe the police to let her go shows how unworthy she was to ever drink a Murree beer.
Secondly, Americans must know we have a very limited supply of beer, for them to take even one from us when they have so many is typical American imperialism. They drained our brains and now they have decided to drain our cans. It is my hope that Ambassador Sherry (no pun intended) Rehman does her patriotic duty and repatriates what is left of the beverage home where it belongs.
In the past I would have turned a blind eye to drinking in Pakistan, but people are going blind drinking some of the alcohol in Pakistan. It is really high time we started to talk about it. The fact of the matter is some people will continue to drink no matter what, and more seriously when other Hollywood celebrities like Lindsey Lohan find out Murree has a 21-year-old single malt and Pakistan hardly has any traffic police, we are going to be in serious trouble.
Take June 26th, International Day against Drug Abuse, as an example of why we need to debate this. On this day, Pakistani Anti Narcotics officials decided to destroy illegal bottles of alcohol they had seized.
So they lined up thousands of bottles on the beach … and drove over them with a steamroller.
Never before has a moral victory created such an environmental disaster. But they made a valid point. If you have a problem in Pakistan it can be solved by driving over it with a steamroller.
Do not fear the worst. Just by talking about alcohol in Pakistan we will never become a country of drunks. The people who drink will continue to drink and those who abstain will more or less continue to do so. Their will be no nightmare scenario where Walls replaces the chocolate at the bottom of the Cornetto cone with a shot of vodka.
It is just a sad state of affairs when we have to keep lying about it. You can hide the bottles in the morning but the Murree Brewery balance sheet is audited and readily available online. We can try to claim that the Christians, Parsi’s and other minorities drank all of the Murree Beer but if that were true then all of minorities in Pakistan would probably not be so miserable all the time.
I have a friend from Turkey who came up to me at a theatre festival a few years ago with a beer in hand and said “Hey Saad, how do you say cheers in Pakistan” I told him “We have no word for Cheers in Urdu. We all whisper it in English and hope nobody hears the clink.”
The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.