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One of the world's tightest drinking laws just got a whole lot tighter.
“I know I can always work something out with the police,” he smiled.
Corruption is endemic in Afghanistan, and much larger crimes than bootleg liquor are subject to some form of gentleman’s agreement.
Tipplers have an easier time of it. Article 349 of the penal code metes out fines of $60-$120 dollars, three to six months in jail, or both, to those caught using any form of intoxicant, including alcohol.
But if Mawlawi Abdul Manan Mudarez of Samangan province has his way, things could get a bit uncomfortable for those who persist in boozing.
“The Book of Hedaya, a major source of Hanafi jurisprudence, says that the consumer of alcohol should receive 60 lashes from a leather whip,” he said.
Hanafi is the oldest of the schools of law within Sunni Islam.
Kabul’s thriving foreign community may also feel the pinch of the new law.
At present, non-Muslims are given a free pass when it comes to alcohol consumption. Thursday evenings at L’Atmosphere, the capital’s premier watering hole, would be all but unthinkable without vast quantities of demon drink.
Employers’ attempts to impose a “two-can limit” on contractors appear to be futile, at least judging by the slurred speech and lurching gait of many of L’Atmo’s patrons.
Article 57 of the Constitution of Afghanistan specifies that foreign citizens residing in Afghanistan are bound by the laws of the state, and the new bill could be tricky.
“We are a bit concerned,” admitted the hostess at Bocaccio’s, one of Kabul’s most popular restaurants. The Italian cuisine is backed by an impressive wine selection, and reservations are hard to come by on weekends. A loss of their liquor license could put a big dent in business.
But the manager of the small shop at one of the UN guest houses in town just shrugged off the new law.
“Of course alcohol is against Islam, and should be banned,” he said, pointing to the well-stocked shelves of beer, wine, and whiskey. “But those who want it will always be able to get it.”
Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi contributed to this report.
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