Economic crisis in Musharraf’s Pakistan


By Vilani Peiris and Keith Jones:

Pakistan roiled by flour and electricity shortages, food price rises

21 January 2008

Pakistan’s US-backed military dictatorship has mobilized more than six thousand paramilitary troops to guard flour mills and distribution points and escort supply-trucks, as it seeks to staunch a flour shortage that has resulted in breadlines and spiraling prices.

Rangers and Frontier Constabulary were ordered into action by the newly created Federal Food Committee (FCC) on Sunday, January 13. In the preceding days there had been long lines of angry people outside government food distribution centers who had to be turned away empty-handed and several instances of anti-government protests.

State-subsidized flour, when available, sells for between and 14 and 18 Pakistani rupees per kilogram, but the price on the open market more than doubled at the beginning of January, reaching 60 rupees in some areas.

Roughly the equivalent of $US1, 60 rupees is the average wage of a day laborer in Pakistan. Three-quarters of Pakistan’s 160 million people live on less than $2 per day.

The price spike has aggravated the suffering of millions whose daily incomes have already been taxed by rising food prices. Food prices have risen by more than 10 percent in each of the last three years, including a 14 percent hike in 2007.

The government has blamed the flour shortage on the riots that erupted across the country in response to the December 27 assassination of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. The government and the Bush administration have rushed to pin Bhutto’s murder on Islamic extremists, conveniently ignoring the Pakistani military’s longstanding sponsorship of, and intimate ties to, various Islamicist militias, including the Taliban, and its decades-long hostility toward the PPP.

The majority of Pakistanis, however, believe that sections of the military-intelligence apparatus and/or their allies were the real authors Bhutto’s death.

Beleaguered Pakistani President visits Europe to shore up support for military regime: here.

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