The country is already in the grip of numerous crises and issuance of any such decree to declare theft, loot and plunder as legal by any respected religious scholar would lead to a turning point and the fire would engulf all and sundry
Over 6,000 labourers working in factories around SITE Area in Karachi have sought the religious decree (Fatwa) from Mufti Muhammad Naeem, Head of renowned Jamia Binoria Alamia, to declare theft, dacoity, loot and plunder – forbidden in Islam – as legal so that they could arrange food and living for their themselves and their families.
“Declaring suicide as Haram, Islam allows pork eating in worst case scenario. Keeping the current circumstances in view, kindly issue a decree declaring theft, dacoity, loot and plunder as legal,” the application read.
In their application for Fatwa, the labourers maintained that despite working for 10-12 hours daily in factories, they are unable to feed their dependents. Average income of a labourer is hardly over Rs. 6,000/- per month and this income is very meager in the face of sky-rocketing price hike in the country.
The labourers said that they were dieing of starvation and they could not see their loved ones requesting for basic medical care. They said that they were fed up with the politicians, capitalists and civil society activists as nobody was interested in taking care of the poor labourers.
Besides some other incentives, the government of Pakistan has fixed Rs. 7,000/- minimum wages for the labourers but majority of the factories owner ignore the directive with impunity.
There is general price hike in Pakistan but price increase in some sectors is more phenomenal. According to reports, inflation rate in Pakistan has reached to 30 per cent in recent years. Wheat, sugar, tea, eggs, poultry, milk, life saving drugs, medicines and electricity are among most effected items.
Price of 20 Kg flour bag has reached Rs. 630 which was Rs. 300 last year. Price of one kilogram sugar has reached to Rs. 100 which was Rs. 25 last year during the year 2008. Cereals and vegetable rates have increased significantly. Price of one kilogram poultry has reached Rs. 200 which was Rs. 120 last year during the year. Price of one dozen eggs has reached Rs. 80 which was Rs. 35 last year during the year.
Mutton is so expensive that the faithful taste it only on the occasion of EID of animal sacrifice (Eid al-Adha). One can observe extraordinary increase by comparing rates of these items rates with the last year prices. Very interestingly prices of all these things go up due to increase in petrol prices.
Having old age parents as his dependents, Riaz, 22, said that he had come from Multan to Karachi and started as a labourer in a textile factory for Rs. 6,000/- per month. He said he had a dream of fulfilling basic requirements of his parents by working in a factory but lawlessness, dearness and loot and plunder by the rulers have combined to make it difficult for him to sustain.
The transporters have hiked the fares while things of daily use are almost out of the reach of the common man while consistent increase in the petroleum prices is adding fuel to the fire. The accommodation rents have been multiplied and a lot of people across the country do not have their own or rented shelter. A lot of labourers can be seen sleeping on footpaths or parks in almost all the big cities of Pakistan.
16-year-old Nazar said he belonged to District Upper Dir in Malakand Division. He was a matriculate student when militants injured his father in the restive Dir area, leaving him paralysed. Nazar has seven members of his family to support, including his school-going five brothers and sisters. “I usually walk four to five kilometers daily to reach the factory so that I could save a few bucks,” he said.
Despite spending more than seven months in the city of lights, Nazar is so far unable to find any permanent job in any factory. “Occasionally, I get labour but my most of the days and nights are spent in starvation,” says Nazar, adding that the situation is worst to such an extent that he is unable to send single penny for his ailing parents back home. “I cannot see myself and my family dieing of hunger,” Nazar said, adding that the Fatwa was the last resort to mitigate their suffering.
Belonging to Southern Punjab, Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa, Azad Jammu & Kashmir, the applicants seemed disgusted with the pitiable politicians and factories owners who were filling their coffers by sucking the last drop of blood from the bodies of labourers. These blood-thirsty rulers and industrialists have millions of rupees in their local and foreign bank accounts but they have little to pay to labourers.
In 2008, the average retail price of Dal Masoor (pulse) was Rs. 64 per kilogram which now sells for Rs. 180 per kilogram. For a fact, every three out of four Pakistanis make Rs. 160 per day or less. That means 140 million Pakistanis can only buy a kilo of Dal Masoor plus, a kilo of wheat flour a day — and live happily thereafter.
Lal Zada has been working over the years in a medicine manufacturing factory for Rs. 9,000/- per month. He said there has been petty increase in salary after hard work for years but making both ends meet is out of bound of the labour class in this country. His children have already quit education and working in against cheap labour in various factories.
When contacted, Mufti Muhammad Naeem said that the industrialists exploit the labourers and deprive them of their basic labour rights. They are denied medical facilities, bonuses, etc. A medical centre is being run by Jamia Binoria where over 300 labourers get medical treatment free of cost. He said that the political leadership was indifferent to the problems of the common man.
“Mobile phone and vehicles snatching is at its peak in Karachi while daylight robbery and killings have become the order of the day and the main reason behind this scenario is the deprivation of labour class from its basic human rights,” Mufti Naeem said, adding that seeking of such decree should ring alarm bells in the corridors of the ruling clique.
The country is already in the grip of numerous crises and issuance of any such decree to declare theft, loot and plunder as legal by any respected religious scholar would lead to a turning point and the fire would engulf all and sundry.
Anwar Kazmi, spokesperson of Edhi – a worldly renowned philanthropist and welfare organization based in Karachi but having its network in almost all the major cities of Pakistan – said that the poverty was increasing in the country. He said Edhi runs five centres in Karachi city only to provide food to the poor but still a huge majority sleeps with empty stomachs.
Amir Madni of Seelani Welfare Trust said that they provide cooked food to 65,000 poor people at its 50 centres in Karachi but the number of poor people seeking alms is increasing. “Poverty can be eradicated if we start paying Zakat to the deserving people,” he said, adding that they have limited resources and the government must awake from its slumber to the call of duty.
The day that Makhdoom Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani took oath as the prime minister of Pakistan, OPEC basket price stood at $96.49 per barrel. OPEC basket price now stands at $76.90 per barrel; a decline of 20 per cent. The day that Makhdoom Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani took oath as the prime minister of Pakistan, the maximum ex-depot sale price of premium motor gasoline was Rs. 62.81 per liter. The maximum ex-depot sales price of motor gasoline now stands at Rs. 71.21; up 13.37 per cent.
Well, there are three possible culprits behind the recent price hikes in Pakistan: imported inflation, devaluation and cartelisation. When the price of oil in the international market goes up, oil costs more in Pakistan, transportation costs go up and as a consequence, the general price level moves upwards.
Intriguingly, over the past two years, the price of oil in the international market has actually gone down by 13.37 per cent (in dollar terms). In effect, translating that dollar-based decline in rupee terms would mean a price hike of 20 per cent (as the rupee depreciated by 33 per cent). There we have imported inflation and devaluation both working at jacking up the price level in Pakistan.
Ghulam Haider is Pakistani journalist and development practiotner. He has worked for ten years in Pakistan's leading newspers (Daily The News and Daily The Nation). Currently he is associated with development sector.