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Home » پوھوزانت » Contemporary Economic Pressures and poverty in Pakistan — Dr. Qais Aslam

Contemporary Economic Pressures and poverty in Pakistan — Dr. Qais Aslam

Over its 75 years history, Pakistan has going through multiple challenges on multiple fronts. Currently, there is a food crisis in the country. There is water crisis in the country. There is energy crisis in the country to name a few. There is a crisis of job creation. There is Balance of Payments crisis. The deficit in the trade and services balance is increasing. The exchange rate with the US$ is not stable and the rupee is sliding against most of the world currencies which in turn is pushing the cost of doing business up and therefore prices of essential commodities, especially that are used by the poor segment of the society have risen sharply, whether because of their imports in dollars, or because of the hording mechanism by respective mafias in the country that have a close relationship with corrupt elements in the government. The lock down in 2020-2021 due to COVID-19 increased joblessness and therefore both inflationary pressures as well as increase in unemployment due to lockdown and cost-push inflation or due to high indirect taxation by the government has not brought about much needed economic growth and prosperity in the lower strata of the population.GDP of Pakistan is 280.0 billion US $ or (at an exchange rate of PK Rs. 178 to 1 US $) PK Rs.50.0 trillion.GDP Growth rate is estimated by World Bank in 2021 at 3.4%Per Capita Income of Pakistan is nearly US $ 1200 or PK Rs. 213.0 thousand in 2021 which is PK Rs. 585.0 (US $ 3.0) a day, much below the official poverty line of PK Rs. 666.6 a day (almost US $ 4) at PK Rs 20,000.0 minimum wage.Trade deficit has reached PK Rs. 670.0 billion, while current Account Deficit has reached US $. 3.4 billion (Or PK Rs. 605.0 billion). And Government’s Debt has reached 75% of Pakistan’s GDP. Source Inflation rate is 15.5% while food inflation is 8.3%. Pakistan CPI (Consumer Price Index is 153.6, that Increased 3.6 points from October 2021. Producer prices increased by 21.0 % since October 2021. Energy costs: Electricity costs increased by PK Rs. 1.68 a unit, Petrol prices increased to PK Rs. 148 a litter, and Gas prices also rose sharply. Transport costs increased by 8.0%. CPI on housing and utilities increased by 3.5% since October 2021.Poverty in Pakistan in official figures by PTI government is 22% of the population decreased from overall 25%. But the World Bank indicators showed poverty in the country increased from 4.5% to 5.5% per annum or another 2 million people have gone below poverty line of US $ 4.0 a day, where more than 3 million people were unemployed before COVID-19. A total of 5 million people jobless.Interest Rates have increased to 12.25% that is going to decrease the profit margins of businesses, subsequently the economy will slow down. The consequence of economic fragility, and crisis in governance has resulted in political unrest that has transformed into rise in extremist agendas not only in the fringes of the country (for example reemergence of TTP and other such terrorist forces on our western borders) but also rise of TLP in the Punjab as a formidable religious and political force that can in the future influence the direction of both our foreign as well as our internal policies.Increase in poverty due to unavailability of opportunities has also brought in distrust among different sects in the majority Muslim community that subsequently also threaten the lives, freedom of worship, and livelihoods of other religious minorities in Pakistan. The more common people and the poor are devoid of opportunities by the ruling elite in the government as well as the opposition who are more concerned by their subsequent power struggles, rather than solving the problems of the poor and the venerable (that should be solved in the corridors of both economic as well as political power), the more this venerability would be translated into extremist and violent behaviors. Due to not understanding the socio-economic situation as well as a crisis in governance, these economic difficulties of the poor and the needy, some of whom are below poverty line and others above the poverty line, but still poor compared to the lifestyles of the rich and powerful are resulting in intolerants behaviors that translate very easily into violence against the more venerable among them and usually these are the religious minorities as well as people of different sects in the same Muslim community.The very poor, who usually have many children that cannot be fed properly usually send at least one son and one daughter to the Deeni Madrasas of the mainstream religious sects, where they are fed and clothed as well as given religious education, but very little or no mainstream education, therefore these children of the poor can either become part of the madrasa or as past facts have told us that they become an army of the religious-political leaders that can be used as a force against other sects or in most cases against the religious minorities where Qadiani, Christian and Hindu places of worship have been vandalized. The other scenario is even more concerned when in the past these Talib of Madrassas have been transformed into suicide bombers and have harassed the very fabrics of our society through terrorism and extremism, mostly on money from our external enemies on the western and eastern borders.In conclusion, although there are many ways of looking at the issue of extremisms, terrorism and intra faith disharmony, in my opinion as an economist lack of economic opportunities, lack of governance, illiteracy and poverty are the root cause of most of intolerance, extremisms and violence between different religions that leads to intra-religious disharmony.Humbly, I state that this disharmony and intolerance does not exist in the richer strata of our society where people of different faiths and sects tolerate each other religious beliefs and places of worship therefore poverty, lack of opportunities and joblessness in more than 5 million people would create opportunities for terrorism, extremisms and religious intolerance against the minorities as these frustrated out of life people are easy to be shepherded against each other and the religious minorities by some unscrupulous people who use the poor as cannon fodder against different sections of the society and prevent interfaith harmony and tolerance.

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