'Ration cards' could alleviate Pakistan's flour crisis

Pakistan’s government is seeking to alleviate the country’s growing food crisis by introducing a ration-card system that will allow people to buy flour at subsidised prices.

After weeks of mounting public outrage over the shortage of wheat flour, the price of which has risen to a record high, the government has said ration cards will be made available from next month for its lower-income citizens. The crisis has been compounded by shortages of gas and electricity throughout the country, damaging businesses and interrupting supplies of heating in the middle of winter.

Wheat flour is widely used to make "roti" and "nan", varieties of round bread that are a Pakistani food staple. Lengthy queues of indignant customers have routinely formed outside government-owned retail stores throughout the country in the hope of being able to feed their families at below market rates.

At the Nan House near Islamabad’s Covered Market, a group of men, tightly wrapped in winter shawls, were recently huddled around a clay oven for warmth. As freshly baked bread was piled for awaiting customers, one by one they focused blame for what the local press has called “the flour crisis” on the government.

“This will only feed further resentment against the government,” said Abdul Ghafoor, who works at the bread store. “First we were at 90 per cent, now because of this we’re at 100 per cent. This government always boasts about its big economy, but now we have no electricity, no gas, no bread.”

Mohammed Amin, a labourer, declared him skeptical about the government’s rationing plan. “Let's see who they give the ration cards to, if they do ever give them out.”

With parliamentary elections less than a month away, the shortage of wheat flour is likely to further hurt the pro-government faction of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q).

The party's popularity has already suffered from the fallout of Benazir Bhutto's assassination and its support for the increasingly unpopular President Pervez Musharraf, who has spent the last few days in London on the final leg of a European tour.

Some members of the opposition have sought to make gains from the government's deepening woes. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted by Mr Musharraf in a military coup in 1999, has been aggressively promoting claims that prices were modest during his government.

The shortage is chiefly attributed to poor trade decisions, with a stream of reports accusing the government of having exported wheat flour at half the price it is now being forced to import the commodity at.

But there has been furious speculation that supplies are being smuggled to neighbouring Afghanistan or hoarded. Earlier this month, the government deployed 5,000 paramilitaries at flour mills to secure supplies.

Last week the Asian Development Bank warned of the effects of food inflation on other south Asian countries also. Rising cereal prices could put 300 million people in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh at risk of starvation, it said

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own