In the tiny alleyways of Ka Farushi, Kabul’s bird bazaar, a merchant from one of Afghanistan’s Tajik
population sells everything from spices and f lower seeds to bird food and shampoo. The Johnnie
Walker Red Label bottles at the front of his stall, however, are not quite what they seem, being filled
with cooking oil not Scottish whisky.
In 2012, to bring the country into line with Sharia law, Afghanistan’s parliament passed a bill stipulating
fines, imprisonment or whipping for anyone caught buying, selling or consuming liquor or other alcohol.
But with non-Muslim foreigners largely exempt from this ban, a black market for spirits and other drinks
f lourishes, albeit discreetly. Once emptied, the bottles are collected, cleaned and recycled with other
liquids inside. It is unsurprising that bottles with Johnnie Walker labels often turn up – the brand is the
most widely distributed and best-selling Scotch whisky worldwide, with annual sales of more than 130