Of some utility still.

Byline: Asha'ar Rehman

SADAQAT, who is from the areas adjacent to Azad Kashmir, has been working at a Utility Stores Corporation outlet in Lahore for the last 30 years. His village underwent a mini-revolution the last time he went there to vote. He says that this was the first time the folks back home did not vote for the PPP. The consensus was that Imran Khan ought to be given a chance.

All of them had their own reasons. Generally, the PPP's current image does not require too deep an inquiry to understand the change of heart on the part of a group large enough for a poll aspirant to try and earnestly cultivate.

In the middle-aged Sadaqat's book, the one-off concession was justified by a single consideration: being a new party in power, the PTI had no bias to show against the organisation that had been the source of succour for him all these years.

The gentleman says he was to be embarrassed for his justification being so off the mark. A year into the new government, his utility store had little extra to offer to its brave customers. Let alone the variety, the discounts on a few items were negligible. The store was consistent with the quality, which was bad without too many exceptions.

A year into the new government, Sadaqat's utility store had little extra to offer to its brave customers.

This added to its long-collapsed reputation. The utility store has come to be considered as one place in the neighbourhood where respectable people did not want to be seen, lest they were mistaken for hapless paupers.

The quality, or lack of it, the occasional queues that formed outside these blue headlined shops every time a privileged soul wanted to remind their ordinary subjects of their true place in the system, gave this so-called utility store a bad name. It could be easily likened to the areas inside public hospitals that blatantly and disrespectfully beckoned those eligible for treatment under zakat provisions. Everyone knew that only really desperate consumers would be forced to go to a place which allegedly sold lots of brands unheard of elsewhere.

Whatever an under-duress customer would buy from here, he would pick with a pinch of salt. I know someone who always asked whether the sugar in her tea is from a mill in Sindh or Punjab - her assertion is that sugar made in Punjab tasted much less sweet in comparison to the variety from Sindh. The utility stores helped establish this difference in standards perhaps like no one else.

These stores...

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