With frequent deaths over wheat, Pakistanis face worst Ramzan

By admin Mar31,2023

This is the worst Ramzan in Pakistan for ordinary citizens, with over a dozen of them dying in stampedes in tortuously long queues for cheap wheat flour. Scores have suffered grievous injuries and millions, no less a tragedy, are returning home without a fistful of wheat flour. Police beatings of people queued up for wheat are common today.

Dusk after dusk, during Ramzan, hundreds of thousands of families have to break their fast with dry bread and water.

Galloping inflation has made the wheat flour crisis even more tragic. Ordinary snacks like samosa and pakoras are priced so high that poor people, who once relied on them for filling up their stomach after fast, have to make do with leftovers in shops.

Every day, millions of people, men, women and children, queue up outside government shops only to return empty handed. The subsidised wheat is hard to come by across the government shops–they are sold in black for exorbitant price, or bought in bulk by the rich. Tonnes of flour are surreptitiously sold off to hotels and other businesses. Shops are shut before wheat bags are whisked off to rich families.  Corrupt dealers are making a killing on the lives of people.

The blame for the worst wheat crisis facing the country lies with the Shehbaz Sharif government, and other provincial governments, for being indifferent to one of the most tragic crises unravelling the lives of ordinary people. Prime Minister Sharif could have handled the situation better with little care and determination. But he did not. The English daily, Dawn, termed the crisis was created by “gross incompetence and mismanagement` by the Sharif government.

The coalition government led by Shehbaz Sharif very well knew the unfolding of the tragedy–wheat production was less than expected, then came the devastating floods and on top of it the Ukraine war blocked possible avenues of importing wheat from Ukraine or Russia. Punjab had enough supply and storage of wheat and could have managed the crisis if only the Shehbaz Sharif government had paid any attention. The Sharif brothers were more interested in the appointment of the army chief, the army was embroiled in its own petty game of politics and Imran Khan had no care in the world for the people of his country but his own skin.

As the Sharif government wrestled with an increasingly belligerent Imran Khan and an army keen to run the politics as usual, people were left abandoned. Wheat disappeared into the blackmarket and stampedes became common for subsidised and poor quality wheat and flour. Hoarders flourished and the rich continued with their wasteful and lavish life as the poor wept on the streets, fought with each other and fell to death and injury in skirmishes throughout the country.

Millers have had their share of grouse–they failed to get sanctioned supplies from the government and were forced to buy in the open market. The result: higher cost, even higher price. They have struck work on several occasions. Scores of mills have shut down. The claims of subsidised wheat had become a joke long ago.

By admin

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