By Syed Raza Hassan
KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) - A Pakistani court on Thursday ordered the closure of all liquor shops in the southern province of Sindh, officials said, cutting off one of the few legal alcohol sources in the Muslim-majority country.
Although Pakistani Muslims are banned from drinking alcohol, the country's minorities, mainly Hindus and Christians, face no such prohibition. However, critics argue that the licensed liquor shops also sell to Muslims.
It is not clear how the minorities will now buy liquor in the province, home to the teeming financial capital Karachi, with some 20 million people.
"The chief justice Sindh high Court has ordered closure of all liquor shops in entire Sindh because they are running their business in violation of article 17, 19 of Hudood Ordinance 1979," Ghulam Mustafa Mahesar Additional Advocate General Sindh province told Reuters.
According to Hudood law, passed under former military ruler General Zia ul-Haq, the sale of liquor is for non-Muslims and it is allowed only during religious ceremonies.
The court case stemmed from a business rivalry among two members of Hindu community who are wine shop owners, with each filing a petition against the other, Mahesar said.
"So as a result of the business rivalry, today all their businesses stand closed," he said.
There are 120 retail liquor shops in Sindh, 21 wholesale shops and 20 which were non-operative for some reason, an official at the provincial Excise Department said.
The Excise, Taxation Narcotics Department of Sindh which regulates the liquor shops wasted no time and issued a notification to all businesses on Thursday afternoon.
(Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Nick Macfie)