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At least 27 poisoned by fake alcohol in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, September 21 (RIA Novosti) - The death toll from alcoholic poisoning in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi has risen to 27, local media said Friday citing police sources.

Some 14 people died Thursday after drinking alcoholic drinks at a private party. By early Friday the death toll had risen to 27, with at least eight people in a critical condition.

An investigation is underway and police have started raiding the city's underworld to find the source of the poisonous alcohol.

An alcohol ban for Muslims was imposed 25 years ago when the country shifted from secular policies to Sharia law, there are a few alcohol producers catering for the non-Muslim population, which comprises 5% of Pakistan's total population.

Despite the fact that drinking and selling alcohol is punishable by caning and three years in prison, the black market for liquor is thriving. Locally brewed alcohol includes kuppi, orange liquor which can lead to blindness and irreversible liver damage, and tharra, a drink brewed from sugar cane juice.

Bootleggers also buy beer quotas from Christians for resale to Muslims, and alcohol is smuggled into Pakistan over its borders, but government officials usually turn a blind eye to the violations.

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