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At least 31 die after drinking homemade alcohol during Christmas celebrations in Pakistan

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A toxic homemade Christmas liquor has killed at least 31 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 as part of Christmas celebrations in the town of Toba Tek Singh, Punjab province.

"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."

Local police officer Atif Imran Qureshi said dozens of people were transported to hospitals in the eastern Punjab province after they consumed contaminated alcohol. A total of 19 people died on Tuesday, and 12 the day before, he said. 

Umair Ahmed, a physician at Allied hospital in the city of Faisalabad, said a dozen more people were still being treated. 

Alcohol is mostly prohibited in Muslim-majority Pakistan, but non-Muslims can purchase it from licensed shops. Minorities need permits to buy it in restricted quantities.

Most poor Christians buy homemade liquor — which is more affordable but causes deaths almost every year.