KARACHI: Authorities in Karachi have suspended six senior excise officials and six policemen as it begins investigations after 29 drinkers died from consuming methanol-tainted liquor over the Eid public holidays.
Gayan Chand, the provincial minister for excise, told AFP: “We have begun an inquiry to find out who sold the spirit illegally and we would take further action against those dealers.
“He confirmed six officials from his department had been suspended, while a police spokesman said six members of the force in Karachi had been suspended for negligence, because the incidents occurred in areas they are supposed to monitor.
The police spokesman said they had a prime suspect and had filed murder charges against him, but he was still at large late Thursday.
At least eight more people in Karachi died from alcohol poisoning after consuming homemade liquor over the Eid public holidays, bringing the total to 29 — the highest recorded toll in seven years, a hospital official said Thursday.
The toll has jumped since the first deaths were reported on Tuesday, with residents of the low-income Landhi and Korangi neighbourhoods of the southern city mainly affected.
The incidents highlight the proliferation of low-grade liquor in the Islamic country, which officially bars Muslims from drinking.
“The death toll from toxic liquor has risen to 29, while 24 others were being treated at the hospital,” said Seemi Jamali, a senior doctor and spokeswoman for Karachi's Jinnah Hospital.
Police have conducted raids at illegal liquor factories, arrested three suspects and seized a quantity of “katchi sharab” (home made liquor), officials said on Wednesday.
A few days earlier, at least 20 people died in Hyderabad reportedly after consuming toxic liquor.
Though legal breweries exist in Pakistan, the sale of alcohol and its consumption is prohibited for Muslims and is tightly regulated for minorities and foreigners.
While higher income Pakistanis buy bootlegged higher grade alcohol at heavily inflated prices, the poor often resort to home-brews that can contain methanol, commonly used in anti-freeze and fuel.
Consumption of methanol can lead to blindness, liver damage and death. In 2007, 40 people were killed in Karachi after drinking contaminated liquor.