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September 6, 2010

‘I want nothing but roti’


September 6, 2010

One can’t help recall how Pakistan was achieved and how many people, young and old, had laid down their lives for the new homeland, and how much agonising were the bloody scenes of loot, arson and killing of innocent Muslim children and dishonouring of women. The casualties at that time were not less than a million, rather more than 1.2 million. Why did such a nasty thing happen? That’s not the point of discussion: it’s painful, still.
A people’s welfare state was in the mind of the freedom lovers who respected Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah for he advocated their cause. The 63-years-dream has not yet been fulfilled, say the old men who witnessed the birth of Pakistan. The educated unemployed youths - Sindhi, Baloch, Punjabi and Pashtun all who live in Islamabad and Rawalpindi - have many complaints to register against self-seekers boosting themselves as leaders. They’ve political power today also. “Revolution or no revolution, democracy or no democracy, we want nothing but bread with honour,” the common people whisper into the ears of ‘The News’ scribe.
Young citizens, in fact, long for an economic revolution, which, they hope, will emancipate them from the old “vicious and wicked system of feudalism and capitalism.” There should be no hesitation to reminisce the 2002 general election. That was a cosmetic exercise which, according to the youth’s assertion, had produced tailored assemblies and mandates without a long-term sound socio-economic plan which could bear any fruit for the future.
‘Sasti daal, roti and chawal (cheap pulse, loaf and rice)’ has always been the common man’s demand over the years. But he had to suffer every time he mounted protest on the street and most of politicians betrayed him on coming into power through his vote. He knocks at the door of the rulers for socio-economic justice even after the February 2008 polls. That’s the factual story of the downtrodden yearning for fruit of so-called

democracy. But the tragedy to food-hungry masses is that the motherland’s wheat was sold again and again to foreigners at a lower rate and later bought back at a higher price. And the new democratic administrative set-up, both at the national and provincial level, seems bewildered.
The governmental measures adopted so far to appease the anger of the hungry people have not been as successful as the new president, the new prime minister and the four provincial chief ministers had visualised. Prices of utility items continue to move up exorbitantly against the interest of the consumers. Sugar sells at Rs.80/90 per kilo, wheat flour at Rs.30/32 and ‘basmati’ rice at Rs.70, which is not within easy reach of the poor. Not long ago, the common man was annoyed, nevertheless kept quiet, over hike in the price of a 20-kilo bag of ‘atta’ (flour) to Rs440 in Rawalpindi and Islamabad and up to Rs750/800 in Peshawar and adjoining areas.
The monthly budget of a middle and lower-middle-class family of five or six was adversely affected. Now, in the wake of the recent torrential rains and floods the up-trend in prices of grains, vegetables and meat is hair-splitting.
The agony of the salaried people and daily wage earners in an environment of unchecked exploitation of consumers by hoarders, smugglers and black-marketers is perceptible. The prices of pulses, rice, mutton, beef, egg and garlic have climbed to peaks. When such is the situation, in spite of what one can say the best-ever effort of the rulers, who will not want a drastic change in the prevailing socio-economic system. Any people-friendly steps taken by the government will go a long way in bringing the masses nearer to the self-asserting democratic regime.
Many agree with the angry youths that the status quo forces and their abettors have violated and abused the sanctity of the ballot box. People say, “the king’s men and horses have been brought under one party-banner, a lot of relatives or party favourites as women members were inserted to complete a special show of democracy for a hung parliament, that has eventually led to general disillusionment and loss of faith in the prevailing system which blocks a fruitful change.”
Does it mean a revolutionary change in socio-economic system has become an urgent need to avert disaster? Who will do it? That’s the poor man’s question to the heads of state, government and judiciary?
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