As the popular myth goes, the ostrich will bury its head in the sand when it sees a predator approaching. While the hyena circles around leisurely before moving in for the kill, the ostrich, unable the see or acknowledge the danger, spends the last few moments of its life blissfully assured that it is safe. The irony may be lost on the ostrich, but one hopes the evolved men leading a nation of 160 million would do better than an oversized bird.

Pakistan drinks alcohol. The Muslims drink, the Christians drink, the man in khaki and the man in the dhoti drinks. But instead of dealing with the very real problems that comes with drinking, our government has chosen to bury its head in the sand by declaring a blanket ‘ban it’ policy, hoping the problem will go away. It is true; the state is capable of social engineering, by making laws backed by threat of punishments it can mould society into certain habits and mindsets. Yet at the face of a habit that is so ingrained in the fabric of society that it resists any attempts to dislodge it, the state has to acquiesce. After all, the state is a manifestation of the people’s wishes, nothing more. Add to this the veritable horde of problems that spring up in the wake of such a policy, and the government’s case looks completely misguided.

As the death toll of people who have lost their lives by consuming toxic liquor rises to 32, one is forced to think what we are doing wrong. By banning consumption of alcohol the state has taken itself out of any sort of regulation of it. Instead a roaring business to meet the demands of the thirsty population has risen up; yet no one knows what they are buying. With no state seal of approval, no authorised dealership and no inspections, the basement brewers and bootleggers can pass of anything they want as alcohol; usually, methanol, often used in coolants and fuel. These toxic liquors seriously damage and often kill the consumers. The black market network that springs up becomes organized crime.

As long as the state has a blanket ban, people will die. The state has to bring itself back into the picture; it must regulate the myriad issues, not ignore them. The end of Prohibition in the United States in 1933 undercut the mafia in one fell swoop; it is learning similar lessons in its war on drugs. The government doesn’t provide any awareness or treatment for alcoholism, no campaigns for safe drinking, no breathalysers to apprehend drunk drivers. Seeing as it is possible to set up a brewery in your house without much fuss, policing urban centres, let alone the countryside, becomes impossible.