Economic powder keg.

VULGAR is the word that pops into mind when witnessing the kind of politicking that seems to have become the norm in Pakistan, especially against the backdrop of a faltering economy, back-breaking inflation, mass joblessness and terrorism raising its cobra-like head again.

Pursuit of power is an integral part of politics as politicians and their parties can only fulfil their pledges and start implementing their manifesto once in office. But this pursuit must conform to democratic norms of conduct. It can't be divorced from the ground reality.

Respected academic Faisal Bari, writing in the Friday issue of this newspaper, has illustrated with great lucidity what sort of economic hardship is being faced by the people and that even members of the socioeconomic groups that earlier seemed immune from the vagaries of the downturn are now feeling the pinch, and many desperately so.

When those with high five- and even low six-figure monthly incomes are visibly suffering, it would be pointless to mention the miseries of the shirtless, those on low incomes or the unemployed, given that inflation is at 30 per cent.

It is time our leaders acknowledge that radical restructuring is the only way forward and the days of the elite profiting from a rentier economy are over.

For the love of God, I can't imagine how a family of four gets by even on Rs50,000 a month, double the minimum wage (you and I both know not too many make even that legal threshold), while having to pay rent, utility bills, school fees and, of course, putting food on the table. Must take some kind of magic, highly skilled jugglery to keep one's head above water.

I have had journalist friends telling me they have had to shift to lower rent homes and move their children to relatively cheaper schools. And even then they can't make ends meet. As a parent I can say the 'downgrading' of your children's school must be the most heartbreaking thing to have to do.

Given the inflation, it is safe to say that the direct cash subsidies being made under schemes such as BISP to those at the bottom of the pyramid may help. But, hand on heart, tell me how many days the meagre cash transfers will enable a poverty-steeped recipient to put no more than just bread on the table?

Against this backdrop, political leaders - among them those dubbed corrupt as well as those officially certified 'sadiq' and 'ameen' - with their invective-laden diatribe against each other, mock the shirtless even as they enjoy their...

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