The lesson from Pakistan is that prohibition does not work (and even your pilot might be pissed)

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Alf never imagined he would be agreeing with a Sallie on the matter of booze.

But today he does just that – up to a point.

The Sallie in question has just come back to this country after heading the Salvation Army in Pakistan, a country which takes a very dim view of booze and boozing.

His experience there tells him prohibition never works – an opinion that won’t be challenged by the member for Eketahuna North.

He goes on to contend that restrictions can reduce the harm from drugs and alcohol. On this score, Alf reckons it rather depends on the nature of the restrictions.

But Alf is flexible on the matter and is willing to consider any proposal – especially proposals to rid public places of drunken young hooligans – so long as his own access to a wee dram is no way impaired.

The Herald reports the experiences and advice of the Sallie today.

Commissioner Alistair Herring, 63, who returned from Pakistan in April to head the Salvation Army’s NZ addiction services, said Islam’s ban on alcohol did not stop Pakistanis suffering serious addiction problems.

“Muslims are not allowed to hold alcohol licences in Pakistan on the premise that Islam is against addictive substances,” he said. “What tends to happen in reality is that Muslims who want to drink will go to the Christian or non-Muslim community for their alcohol. I have talked to Muslim folk in Pakistan and they acknowledge that it is a problem. There is also a huge drug problem, of course.”

Pakistan is supposed to be officially “dry”, or course, and the 96% of Pakistanis who are Moslems, according to official figures, are not supposed to drink.

The penalty if they do so is 80 lashes, an idea that could be introduced in this country to punish boozers who should not be drinking, which is everybody under the legal age.

But Pakistani authorities are not strictly enforcing this law and so…

Although there are many harmless social gatherings, there is also a growing problem of addiction to the bottle.

Officials have told the BBC – while not wanting to be quoted – that alcohol-related diseases have risen by at least 10% in the past five years.

Moreover, you can’t rule out the prospect of your airliner being piloted by a pissed Pakistani.

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) once again came under the spotlight for all the wrong reasons as a tipsy pilot was apprehended in England while he was boarding an aircraft carrying 180 passengers.

Co-pilot Captain Irfan Faiz Chishti, 54, was taken into custody by British police at the Leeds Bradford International Airport on suspicion of being under the influence of alcohol as he headed to fly a plane back to Islamabad on Wednesday.

“At about 10pm last night police were called to Leeds Bradford International Airport where they arrested an airline pilot on suspicion of carrying out an activity ancillary to an aviation function while impaired by drink,” the London police said according to AFP.

But let’s get back to NZ.

Herring made some further points about prohibition.

He said Salvationists vowed not to drink or smoke voluntarily “because of who we are and the services we provide”. But compulsion was “quite a different thing”.

“Prohibition is never going to work, has never worked,” he said.

Alf was delighted to hear him advise he would be “very cautious” about decriminalising cannabis, as proposed by Auckland Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse.

But Herring acknowledged the inconsistency of laws on cannabis and alcohol.

“I understand the younger generation saying to their parents, ‘So you are against my drug of choice but what about your drug of choice?'” he said.

“We tend to want to use a sledgehammer with drugs and a feather duster with alcohol.”

Above all, Herring saw signs of a strengthening public mood in favour of the need to limit the misuse of alcohol.

Alf is aware of this changing mood.

He most approves of the mood in favour of raising the drinking age.

He can live with it being raised as high as legislators think will do the job of clearing the streets of the aforementioned drunken hooligans and what-have- you, just so long as it does not go so high that Alf no longer will be served in the Eketahuna Club or any of the local boozers.

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