KARACHI - As many as 21 people in Karachi died after drinking homemade liquor during Eid holidays, officials said Wednesday, highlighting the dangers of moonshine in a country where Muslims are barred from drinking.

The condition of 16 others, admitted in the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) after consuming ‘Kutchi Sharab’ (homemade liquor), was said to be critical.

The victims of bad quality local liquor were mostly the residents of District East region, specifically Landhi, Korangi, Sharafi Goth, Quaidabad, Bilal Colony, Awami Colony and Zaman Town, but some victims were also brought to hospitals from Mehmoodabad, Preedy and Frere areas of the District South.

The victims aged between 17 to 50 years and the majority of them were Muslims who were celebrating the three-day public holiday over Eidul Adha. The tragic incident came into the notice after the victims started arriving at the JPMC on Tuesday evening.

“From Tuesday evening to Wednesday, total 21 people have lost their lives while 16 others are admitted with critical condition,” the hospital’s deputy executive director, Dr Seemin Jamali said.

A policeman, namely Suleman Khan and his three friends - Raees, Mairaj Hameed and Rashid Jan were also among the dead. Some of the families of the victims took their bodies away without medico-legal formalities.

Sindh government on Sunday stripped Mukesh Chawla of the Excise and Taxation portfolio who was holding this slot for the last six years over what the provincial government termed his ‘negligence’ in issuing licenses to substandard wine shops in Hyderabad that led to deaths of around 20 people last week.

Some victim families demanded registration of murder cases against the officials of Excise and Taxation departments and police, saying they too were responsible for the deaths as they allowed business of such poisonous liquor.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah and Sindh IGP Ghulam Hyderi Jamali took notice of the Karachi deaths and asked police officials concerned to speed up the operation against the elements involved in manufacturing and sale of toxic liquor in the city.

Following that, the police conducted raids in different parts of the city and apprehended around half dozen suspects. Karachi police chief Additional IG Ghulam Qadir Thebo nominated District East police chief DIG Munir Shaikh to conduct a special inquiry to find out about all the toxic liquor factories in the city.

Though legal breweries exist in Pakistan, the sale of alcohol is prohibited to Muslims and tightly regulated for minorities and foreigners. While higher-income Pakistanis buy bootlegged alcohol at heavily-inflated prices, the poor often resort to home-brews that can contain methanol, commonly used in anti-freeze and fuel that can lead to blindness, liver damage and death.

Deaths due to the consumption of poisonous liquor are common in Pakistan, especially on occasions of celebration. Last year, over 15 people lost their lives after they consumed toxic liquor in Mehmoodabad area of Karachi.