It was no small number. Tens of thousands of Pakistanis yesterday poured onto the streets in almost all big and small cities and towns of the country in a government-led demonstration of solidarity with the Kashmiris who have refused to accept New Delhi’s illegal annexation of their abode on August 5, and continue to fight a nine million-strong occupation force despite heavy restrictions that have rendered them without supplies and medicines for 26 days now and cut them off from the entire world due to communications curbs. The half-hour-long demonstrations, called Kashmir Hour, were meant to pressure the world into siding with the Pakistani position on the troubled disputed region. Sirens blared across the country when the clock struck noon and traffic signals all flipped to red on roads in Islamabad and elsewhere while the Pakistani national anthem and an anthem for Kashmir played across television and radio.
The main Kashmir Hour event in Islamabad was held on Constitution Avenue, where Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the country alongside several ministers and members of parliament. Leaders of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) also gathered at D-Chowk while government employees from nearby offices came out to participate in Kashmir Hour on the streets. Numerous demonstrations were also organised in other parts of the country as well as Azad Jammu and Kashmir with elected representatives leading the demonstrations in their respective constituencies, and members of civil society, students and celebrities participating in large numbers. The demonstration was the first in what will be weekly rallies held nationwide until Prime Minister Imran leaves for New York by the end of next month to attend the United Nations General Assembly, and raise the Kashmir issue before the international community.
“We are with them in their testing times. The message that goes out of here today is that as long as Kashmiris don’t get freedom, we will stand with them,” the PM told thousands of demonstrators in the capital as he expressed his sheer commitment towards the cause of Kashmir. The PM also reiterated his annoyance over the slumbering world conscience, stressing that if Kashmiris were not Muslims, the world would have acted much more strongly to stop India’s brutalities. It, however, needs to be mentioned here – with all the disappointment and disgust – that the countries that have shown the greatest disregard for the plight of Kashmiris are all Muslim states, and it goes without saying that the prime minister and his men need to focus more on these ‘friendly’ countries as part of their diplomatic offensive to highlight the Kashmir issue the world over. The PM also needs to realise – and prepare a counter plan too – that as he lambasts Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party as the second coming of Hitler and the Nazis, our beloved ‘allies’ continue to act as Judenrat – the Jews who supported the Nazis in keeping the ghettos and concentration camps in order.
While the government has been doing all what it can to get the world to focus on the plight of the Kashmiris at the hands of the Indian occupation forces, common Pakistanis also have their task cut out: they are required to keep the Kashmir issue burning bright by whatever way possible. The Kashmir Hour the next Friday must witness a bigger, louder and more enthusiastic participation from the people. The roar must draw bigger coverage and more prominent display in the international media. The first target is to get the lockdown in the occupied state lifted – something that New Delhi is scared of doing, realising the fury and the determination with which the never-say-die Kashmiris shall react.
Rising flour price
Prices of flour in Sindh province have been raised by another two rupees per kilogram. And with that, flour number 2.5 is now being sold for Rs44.50 per kilogram while fine quality flour for Rs47.50 per kilogram. What’s striking is that this is the third hike in the flour price just this month. Moreover, the price of the commodity has gone up by as much as Rs11 since April.
The chief of the provincial body of the Pakistan Flour Mills Association (Pfma) has warned that the market now only has wheat stocks to last until the middle of October, after which fresh supplies from the state granaries will be needed to meet the demand. The good news, however, is that senior officials of the Sindh Food Department are cognizant of the issue and claim to have approached the Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) twice for releasing as much as 500,000 tonnes of wheat to Sindh in the coming months to overcome any flour and wheat crisis.
There may be people here who are content buying flatbread from the market or may not otherwise feel the pinch of a Rs11 hike in the price of flour – accumulated to more than Rs100 for a 10-kilogram bag. But for many other residents, particularly the 55 million who live on less than two dollars a day, the Rs2/kg hike in the price of flour or the Rs5 rise in the price of a flatbread piece means a lot. People at or even near the bottom rung of the ladder live on meager, day-to-day incomes where the room to accommodate inflationary pressures is extremely limited.
Such people are already bearing the brunt of a double-digit inflation — which is at its highest over the past five and a half years. Street protests over the prices of essentials spare no one, and even Prime Minister Imran Khan’s good intentions of wanting to stabilise prices of essential commodities may not be much helpful. More needs to be done to prevent the camel’s back from breaking.