AFP

ISLAMABAD-With coarse-grained pork sausages, blood pudding and fine wine on his menu, Philippe Lafforgue thought he had cooked up the perfect recipe for expats in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad.

But the Frenchman’s refusal to serve Pakistanis unless they were accompanied by a foreigner has landed him in the soup in this deeply conservative country. It all started with a Twitter comment one evening in December. Cyril Almeida, a prominent Pakistani journalist, complained about a restaurant which refused reservations from anyone except “foreign-passport holders”.

Established in October, “La Maison” is a small French bistro tucked away on the ground floor of Lafforgue’s house in a posh, tree-lined area in the heart of the capital. After being refused a table, Almeida turned to social media, launching a campaign with the hashtag “NoToApartheid.”

“It is so obviously offensive and obnoxious - why should a private individual establish a club or an establishment which blocks out the very people of the country it is operating in?” Almeida told AFP. He published the address of “La Maison” online, contacted the police, the ministry of the interior and the local member of parliament. The results were almost immediate: two senior police officials tried to book a table at the tastefully decorated restaurant replete with ornate carpets and works of art. But like Almeida, their efforts proved in vain. Officers then raided La Maison, shut it down, arrested two local staff and confiscated some 300 bottles of wine, beer and even Perrier - possibly thinking the sparkling mineral water was champagne. Pakistan’s twittersphere, made up in large part by the country’s small but influential elite, reacted sharply.  Some compared the policy to the kind of discriminatory attitudes seen during the colonial era when Pakistan was still part of British-ruled India.

Lafforgue, who moved to Pakistan in 2005, says he has been taken aback by the reaction and insists he acted in good faith.  Former socialist prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto banned alcohol in 1977, bowing to pressure from Islamic parties. But authorities allow its sale to non-Muslims, primarily for festive purposes, and “non-Muslim foreigners”.

Islam bans the consumption of pig products - and therefore certain types of sausage. But while even many liberal Muslims avoid pork, many enjoy alcohol discreetly at closed-door gatherings. “All that I have done was to abide by Pakistani law.