Stampedes for subsidised government-distributed flour, the worst economic crisis in decades, a coalition government unsure of its moorings and reluctant to carry out much-needed economic reforms, sectarian and separatist violence across large spans of the country, terrorist groups, diplomatic and ideological problems with neighbouring Afghanistan, and some of the worst floods the country has ever experienced – disaster has gripped Pakistan.
On January 7, Harsingh Kohli, a labourer and a father of six, was trampled to death while trying to get subsidised flour at the Gulistan e Baldia park in the city of Mirpur Khas in Pakistan’s Sindh province. The trucks had been sent by the government with flour at a subsidised rate of Rs 65 per kilo when the retail price is around Rs 150. The crowds, already infuriated by the food crisis, were incensed by Kohli’s death. They took his body into the street to protest the situation.
Pakistan is the world’s eighth-largest producer of wheat. But there’s an acute shortage of flour in the country caused by floods and the worst economic crisis Pakistan has faced in decades.
In October and November last year, unprecedented and devastating floods ravaged Pakistan. The agriculture, food, livestock, and fisheries sectors lost an estimated US $3.7 billion in the catastrophe. Pakistan’s planning commission has estimated that the long-term losses from the floods are around $9.24 billion, and the government says it needs over $16 billion to rebuild after the damage caused.
Then, there is the terrorism factor. A terrorist organisation – the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – dared seize a Counter-Terrorism Department’s office in the town of Bannu in the country’s restless Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in December. It held army personnel hostage there for nearly two days. And just a month ago, TTP suicide bombers killed six in the country’s capital, Islamabad, a city that’s always been relatively safe from such attacks.
An agricultural crisis following floods might have been easier to understand. However,