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January 5, 2020

What happened to New Year soirees at Supper Market?


January 5, 2020

Islamabad wears a decent outlook where you rarely witness squeaking of tyres and swishing of cars on roads a la Lahore and Karachi. But the city has a very rich profile for active parties and road shows. Much of the most of these events are polluted by so-called civil rights groups who are always eager to cash in on public gatherings, use them as photo ops and send these photos to their bosses, foreign and local, as if to justify their existence.

Despite all this, Islooites manage to sing, dance and jolt. Super Market is one such spot where it is a routine to facilitate public in celebrating national days and New Year. Mega screens are set, music is played and people dine. But no such display was witnessed this year. No unusual traffic, almost empty restaurants, no big screens and little availability of suitable drinks greeted the people New Year this December 31.

Perched at Istanbul Restaurant that looks over the main square in Supper Market, I asked its manager Mr. Rauf as to what has gone wrong. Mr. Rauf is a media graduate and he has turned the challenge of shrinking job market into an opportunity for himself, setting up a different type of restaurant. “Business has plummeted over the past year or so. And I am not alone in feeling the heat,” he told me, holding a big glass of green tea as green tea is the best available drink in the market these days.

A brief talk with other restaurants and food outlets in the market revealed that they have been all been hard-pressed to find customers these days. “Basically, buying power of the masses has di8minished. Markets have been mired in taxes,” said Mr. Rauf.

Market committees used to arrange events for public. These events have always been profit-making. People used to set up stalls and attract crowds of customers. This is how the business community translate social capital into money. “But it perhaps is happening for the first time that we fail to earn profits even from arranging such events,” he said.

The problem is that money is nowhere. Office workers and executives also tell you a similar story. “Salary just slips away from your hand in the middle of the month. This is happening for the first time during my 20 years of service,” a high-ranking official told me in his lavish office.

It is painful to see Islamabad life growing duller. This is a city of office workers and business booms when the workers are earning well. Good salary is a source of all the celebrations and festivities. Unfortunately, it is perhaps the first time in history that salaries of federal government employees have gone less than provincial government employees due to the 18th Amendment.

The message that this colourless New Year night at Supper Market has for all of us is: Pay more attention to the federal government employees. Kohsaar Market, though, is a different story and does not reflect the real face of Islamabad.

– Hassan Shehzad

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