Bootlegging in Karachi

Obtaining alcohol in Pakistan isn’t that easy, especially for Muslim women. And, like in prohibition-era America, some have carved out a unique niche selling hard alcohol on the black market to those willing to pay.

And like in any relationship, Bilal and I rely on emotional blackmail, cajoling and the demands of our schedules. “How will I survive the holidays?” I pleaded to Bilal before a long weekend to get him to make a rare home delivery. “I can’t lower the prices; this is how much it’s costing me!” Bilal says in response to my haggling. Sometimes Bilal will refuse to take my order, and I don’t call him for weeks after. Each time I hope that this is a clean break. I tell myself that the liquor Bilal sells is terribly inferior and I can live without it. There are other options. I can buy locally brewed beer from the licensed stores: technically they’re only supposed to sell to non-Muslims, but the shopkeepers have never asked me to prove my faith (or lack of it). Local beer is cheap, delicious and incredibly refreshing given that Karachi’s weather vacillates between hot and extremely hot for ten months a year. Going to the liquor store isn’t stressful, and I’m never scared of being caught out: No one in my family deigns to drink locally produced alcohol. But then I find myself at a dinner table again, with none of my friends willing to call Bilal, and I prepare to grovel. In a city where I’ve befriended and fallen out with more people than I can count, Bilal is the only man I can rely on.

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