Pauper Pakistan at verge of ending up as Sri Lanka
The rogue country in India’s backyards is at the verge of economic debacle, akin to what Sri Lanka witnessed last year. The neighbor that had been vowing and threatening thousands of years of war with India is grappling with the dissent of its own people, who want leaders like Narendra Modi to bail them out of the grim situation. The political instability, economic bankruptcy and intermittent radicalised campaigns by drug addicted Jihadis have made Pakistanis realize that they were perhaps better off with India. They are publicly eulogizing Modi and condemning all their Prime Ministers, from Benazir Bhutto to Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan to Shahnawaz Sharief.
Islamabad is reeling under such a crisis on all the fronts that the Prime Minister had to say on camera that he will ‘sell his clothes but not let his people sleep hungry.’ He made a real mockery of himself. The opponents, as also professionals and women mocked their Prime Minister for his hilarious actions.
On the contrary, the Indian economy is not only stable despite the pandemic but the nation has achieved the distinction of being the fifth economy of the world. Over 81 crore Indians are getting free rations since the outbreak of pandemic in early 2020, apart from various other pre-requists for dignified living. This is inspirational for Pakistanis, who are struggling to even get a bag of atta whatever the cost. Television screens remain full of public reactions over scarcity, shortage and erratic utility services. Footages of consumers hackling each other to get the essentials is normal feature with almost all the television channels. The people are taking to the streets in staggering mass protests, chanting slogans against the government and demanding minimum possible availability of essential commodities.
Pakistan’s problems have accumulated due to misgovernance, political slugfest and above all foreign debts besides refusal of the International Monetary Fund to rescue the crashing country. All weather Arab friends besides China are also witnessing the Pak misery at the fence. Nobody seems to be interested in rescuing Pakistan from the obtaining crisis. Thus the attention of Pakistanis is currently on India, which is treading the path to becoming the world leader.
According to media reports, the week-on-week inflation in Pakistan has jumped to 2.89 percent from 0.17 percent a month ago. Of the 51 items tracked, the prices of 34 items increased, five items decreased, whereas those of 12 items remained unchanged.
The price of petrol has been moved up to Pakistan Rs 272 per litre after an increase of Rs 22.20, to appease the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for unlocking the critical loan tranche, hours after unveiling a tax-loaded ‘mini-budget’.
Inflation is sky high with middle and poor segments braving the main brunt. The prices of chicken rose from PKR 300 in January this year to about PKR 700 February. They are expected to go further up, official sources were quoted as saying by reports. In what has irked the Pakistan Poultry Association, Federal Food Security Minister Tariq Bashir Cheema, recently asked people to quit eating chicken saying that it was not good for their health. The current wheat flour crisis in Pakistan is triggered primarily by the incorrect estimates by the Punjab and Sindh governments in the country. According to estimates projected by local media reports, Pakistan needs 4 lakh sacks of wheat in order to meet its immediate internal demand. The debt-struck country is importing wheat from Russia in order to meet the deficit.
While onions cost PKR 215 per kilogram, the price of one kilogram wheat is PKR 160, rice 145, beans 195, tomato 122, mutton 1100, desi ghee 2000 , eggs per dozen pkr 400, edible oils per litre PKR 488. These are the rates prescribed by Pakistan Directorate of Food, Khyber Pashtunistan. The actual prices on ground zero are alarmingly higher. Reports suggest three to four fold black marketing of the essentials against the official rates.
How Pakistan charts its path of economic recovery amid political instability, security challenges and large scale protests is worth watching, lest the scenario takes the turn Sri Lanka witnessed last year. Challenges are numerous and the response appears to be dismal.