By FnF Correspondent | PUBLISHED: 01, Apr 2023, 8:58 am IST | UPDATED: 01, Apr 2023, 8:58 am IST
New Delhi: People in Pakistan have been facing difficulties during Ramzan, with over a dozen of them dying in stampedes in tortuously long queues for cheap wheat flour, The Pakistan Military Monitor reported. Scores of people have suffered injuries and millions have been coming back to their homes without a fistful of wheat flour, as per the news report.
Police beatings of people queued up for wheat is being witnessed in Pakistan, as per the news report. Hundreds and hundreds of families have to break their fast with dry bread and water during Ramzan.
Rising inflation has made the wheat flour crisis even more tragic. The price of ordinary snacks like samosa and pakoras are so high that poor people, who once relied on them for filling up their stomachs after fasting, have to make do with leftovers in shops, as per the news report.
Every day, millions of people queue up outside government shops only to return to their homes empty-handed. Subsidised wheat is hard to come by across the government shops as they are sold in black for an exorbitant price or bought in large amounts by rich people, according to The Pakistan Military Monitor report.
Tons of flour are sold to hotels and other businesses. Shops are closed before wheat bags are whisked off to rich families.
As per the news report, the blame for the ongoing wheat crisis faced by the country lies with Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif`s government and other provincial governments for being indifferent to the crisis.
As the Sharif government wrestled with former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, people in the country were left abandoned. Wheat disappeared and entered the black market while stampedes became common for subsidised and poor-quality wheat and flour, as per the news report. Hoarders flourished and the rich people continued with their lavish life while poor people wept on the streets, fought with each other and fell to death and injury across the country, The Pakistan Military Monitor reported.
Millers have had their share of grouse as they failed to get sanctioned supplies from the government and were forced to purchase in the open which has resulted in higher prices.
There have been multiple stampede incidents across Pakistan due to the unorganised distribution of free flour, and the latest such incident in Multan left 14 people, including two police personnel, injured at the spot, The News International reported.
In Multan, hundreds of people were involved in a stampede after they gathered to get free flour at a distribution point on Wednesday. The Rescue Control Room received a panic call during the free flour distribution centre near Jamia-ul-Uloom near Madni Chowk, Rescue 1122 officials said.
The Rescue immediately alerted the motorbike staff on the spot and sent more ambulances and motorbikes from the nearby station. They found 12 people and two police personnel injured on the spot. As per the news report, two of them were found critical.
Along with stampedes, the flour crisis in India's neighbouring country also triggered clashes between forces and protesters who tried to loot the free flour bags. Four people, including a policeman, were injured after a clash erupted between police and protesters over the distribution of free flour in the Maira region of Bisham tehsil in Pakistan`s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Dawn reported.
The clashes erupted on Thursday when protesters tried to loot flour bags meant for free distribution among deserving people. Three protesters and a police constable were injured in the clash. Police vehicles were also damaged as protesters pelted stones at them.
Speaking to Dawn, Dandai SHO Fazal Elahi said that protesters, led by village council chairman Shah Zenat, blocked Karakoram Highway and tried to loot flour bags that were being taken to Bisham from a flour mill. He said that protesters pelted stones at police when they tried to stop them from looting the flour truck.
Shah Zenat, who led the protest, said that they were holding protests against the unjust distribution of flour. Zenat said that protesters were demanding the establishment of more points.
However, police started baton charges and injured several people, as per the Dawn report. Assistant Commissioner Mohammad Jawad Asif said that protesters targeted a police station in Dandai. He said that police fired in the air to disperse the protesters. However, the road continued to remain blocked for four hours.
Jawad Asif said that the issue of flour distribution points was discussed in the talks between protesters and the local administration. He further said that protesters were raising demands for the transfer of SHO Fazal Elahi, which was not possible. He said that FIR was lodged against some of the protesters, who attacked the police vehicle and police station.
In Swabi, Jamaat-i-Islami held a protest against price hikes and irregularities in the free distribution of wheat flour among deserving people.
A large number of people joined the protest and raised slogans against officials involved in irregularities, as per the news report. The protesters said that there was a lack of a perfect mechanism to distribute flour among people in an easy manner.
Addressing the protesters, JI leaders Mehmoodul Hassan, Mian Iftikhar Bacha and Imaduddin said that the government, instead of giving relief to poor people during Ramazan, made their lives miserable.
The Jamaat-e-Islami leaders said that even women stood in long queues for the entire day to get the substandard flour. In Bajaur, JI leaders threatened to start a massive movement if the mechanism of flour distribution was not changed immediately, as per the news report.
The JI leaders said that there was corruption, irregularities and mismanagement in the distribution of free wheat flour in the district. Last week, a man and a woman were killed at free flour distribution points in separate incidents in Punjab province, Dawn reported.
In two separate areas of Punjab province, a man and woman were killed at free flour points in Muzaffargarh and Khairpur Tamewali.In the Jatoi area of Muzaffargarh, an elderly woman named Zahra Mai fell on the ground due to a large gathering and died on the spot.
In the same incident, another two women also fainted but rescue officials shifted them to a hospital for treatment, according to Dawn.
Meanwhile, in Khairpur Tamewali (Bahawalpur), a man lost his life during the distribution of free flour bags on Saturday. Muhammad Safdar died after he had managed to collect free four bags from the distribution point in Khairpur Tamewali.
An aggravated gas crisis across Karachi, particularly over the past three days of Ramzan, has made the life of people miserable as supply remained unavailable even at Sehri and Iftar timings, Dawn reported. Burning wood and costly LPG cylinders were the only options left for domestic consumers due to the gas crisis.
On Thursday, angry people took to the streets in some parts of the city and spoke against the Sui Southern Gas Company for piling miseries on them during Ramzan, as per the Dawn report. Complaints like very low pressure or no supply of gas at Sehri and Iftar timings kept on pouring in from every known locality of the city.
The gas utility`s complaint service, 1199, seemed not accessible. The people who could connect to the complaint service were told by the attendants that they did not have any information regarding any scheduled or unscheduled load shedding in any part of the city.
People also wrote about prolonged load-shedding in Karachi on social media sites, including Twitter and Facebook.
Saleem Akhtar Siddiqui, a resident of Clifton, in his tweet asked as to why the corrupt mafia of SSGC was carrying out load shedding of gas to consumers in his locality behind Standard Chartered Bank in Boat Basin, as per the Dawn report. He wrote, "All sort of unannounced load shedding is contempt of the orders of honourable Supreme Court."
The gas utility had assured people that gas would be supplied during Sehri and Iftar timings during the month of Ramzan. In some regions, like Gulistan-i-Jauhar and Gulshan-i-Iqbal, gas was supplied during these timings, however, the pressure remained low.
Iqra Shah, a resident said, "We just can`t burn over stoves unless we use gas suction device."
As the pressure remained very low wherever gas was supplied, SSGC spokesperson Salman A Siddiqui in a tweet cautioned consumers against the use of the gas suction devices.
People said that the provincial government was sitting like a silent spectator while consumers were facing problems in performing their religious obligation of fasting during Ramzan. Samreen Hassan, a resident of Saddar, said that no gas was being supplied to her locality before sehri and iftar.
The Sindh Energy Minister said that the gas production from Sindh was between 2,700 to 3,000 mmcfd, as per the Dawn report. However, the SSGC was providing less than 900 mmcfd to the province.
He said that they have taken up the matter with the concerned authorities but to no avail. He added that the provincial government will again raise the issue with the federal government.