19 Christians and two Muslims died after consuming the toxic liquor. Alcohol consumption is forbidden for Muslims and strictly regulated for minorities so the poor often resort to home-brews that can contain methanol. Photograph:( AFP )
A toxic homemade Christmas liquor killed at least 23 people, mostly from Pakistan's Christian minority community, and made dozens sick, police said on Tuesday.
At least 45 people were treated for poisoning after drinking the moonshine in the town of Toba Tek Singh, Punjab province, about 315 km (195 miles) south of Islamabad.
"The maker and supplier of the toxic liquor is also included among the dead," senior police official Bilal Kamyana told Reuters. "The maker prepared liquor at home and sold it in polythene bags for 500 rupees (about $5) each."
Deaths from tainted liquor, often home-brewed, occur periodically in Muslim-majority Pakistan, often around religious festivals. In March, at least 40 people, mostly Hindus, died after drinking toxic liquor days ahead of the festival of Holi.
It is illegal for Muslims to buy or consume alcohol in the country, and minorities need permits to buy it in restricted quantities.
Christians make up about 1.6 per cent of Pakistan's 190 million people, with most living in Punjab.