Dystopian times.

CAN you imagine the desperation that would lead you to poison your wife and daughters - the youngest only two years old - with copper sulphate? High inflation and the inability to make ends meet led a man to do this in Karachi's Surjani Town on Friday. While his suicide attempt failed, he lost his two-year-old child, and his four-year-old was left in a critical condition.

This family is not the first to succumb to raging inflationary pressures. The list is a macabre one - a man seeking to escape poverty by jumping into a canal with his four-year-old daughter in Muzaffargarh; a labourer from Narowal also choosing to drown in a canal with his two children rather than continue to battle penury.

These are among the few cases that are reported as suicides. Accurate reporting on suicides is almost impossible to come by in a social context where the desperate act is ridden with social and religious taboo. But anecdotal evidence is mounting that there is a plague of depression and anxiety fuelled by soaring food prices and the stalling economy. Sindh's commerce minister last month raised alarm bells about growing suicide rates among the poor.

Though unimaginably tragic, such a trend seems inevitable. According to BISP programme data, more than 25 million families - amounting to 153m people - are getting by on less than Rs37,000 per month, the equivalent of $0.73 per person per day. This while weekly inflation is surging well over 40 per cent - and on the heels of last year's floods that pushed 33m people into poverty, and which threaten to drag an additional 9m people into poverty this year, according to UNDP research. More than half the country's population faces either moderate or serious food insecurity.

When the pie shrinks, it shrinks for everyone.

But you may have missed these suicide stories and horrifying statistics. They are unfortunately relegated to the back pages or late-night tickers while the shenanigans of our mainstream political parties dominate news headlines. But Pakistan is now at the tipping point where the shocking and callous disconnect of our elite politics is in danger of making the democratic system completely irrelevant.

While social media feeds and news cameras flit between Zaman Park and the Judicial Complex, little attention is paid to the plight of millions of Pakistanis who would rather submerge themselves in polluted canal waters or ingest copper sulphate than endure another day in the land of the pure. Sadly, there...

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