Living on Nothing: Poverty on the roll!

Low income and inflation in Pakistan deprive many people of basic necessities. In the debt of 1,240 million dollars from World Bank, Pakistan is still struggling to plan effective policies to cater to the basic needs of its ordinary citizens. People living below the poverty line find it extremely hard to make ends meet on their limited incomes and in the face of rising expenditure. Every week on Friday, many street venders stand outside the mosque in civil lines near commercial area, Saddar. And desperately wait to get more customers irrespective of the scorching sunlight of summers or freezing cold of winters. Whereas people like security guards and house maids go through other hard ways to earn living. Here are the stories of 5 such individuals who find it quite hard to sustain oneself in this wave of inflation but still consider it God’s blessing that they are able to survive.

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 Wajid Ali moves his hands as fast as possible to deliver “Goll Gapay” (a traditional Pakistani appetizer) to his customers without any delay who gather around his cart. He earns about five hundred rupees daily from which he needs to feed eight members of his family. He values education and sends his four children to school, but worries about their future due to the high unemployment rate in Pakistan,“Parha tou mein rah hoon lekin phir nokri nai milti” (I am educating my children but it is not easy to get a job), he says with a bleak look in his eyes as he contemplates the daily struggle of survival.

“Ye hakoomat insaanon ko qiston mein maar rehi hai,” (This government is gradually killing people) says Misri Khan a Security Guard at Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce while criticizing the inflation rate. He earns seven thousand rupees in a month after working for twelve hours a day. He adds despondently, “Aap yaqeen kerein humein gosht bhi sirf bakra eid pe khaanay ko milta hai…her cheez itni mehngi hog gayi hai kai daal rotti pe bhi 200 tak roz lag jaata hai.” (Believe me! We get to eat mutton only on Eid-ul-Azha…Everything has become so expensive that even a normal meal comprising of lentils and bread costs 200Rs daily.)

Another security guard, Abdul Aziz, employed at Honda City showroom, earns about eight thousand rupees every month to support his family of five. He also has to pays a rent of three thousand rupees along with electricity and gas bills. His wife also sells shopping bags in Raja Bazaar to increase the family income. In response to a query over his monthly expenditure, he says bitterly that ‘if I start counting it will never be enough, nothing is in the hand of a human its just that Allah provides everything.’

Shunwar Khan, an ice cream seller, has a family of 5 people living in Mohmand Agency. He makes about two hundred to three hundred rupees daily and finds it very difficult to live in Rawalpindi. Standing in the burning noon of summers while waiting for customers, he says that it is very expensive for even an individual to live in this city, and at the same time to save up for his family back in the village.

Farzana, a young woman of about 24; works as a maid at five different houses to help her husband and family survive inflation. She spends her whole day working and then looking after her children at home. At the age of fourteen, she got married to a drug addict who abused her mentally and physically.  After getting a divorce she married a Rikshaw driver and says, “Ab mujhay logon kay gharon mein kaam kerna perhta hay per sakoon tau hai na” (Though I work in people’s houses but at least I am at peace now). She earns about four thousand rupees a month, and spends all her saving on her children. She says that she sends her children to school instead of spending money on other necessities. She further adds that I use all the money to fulfill my children’s wishes rather than buying new clothes for my own self. ‘I spend my Eids in used clothes that people give me’, Farzana says.

As far as Government’s policies are concerned, according to new labor wage policy of 2010; seven thousand rupees per month has been set up as a standard minimum wage in Pakistan. Considering the inflation rate, it seems impossible for people to survive in poverty and provide a better future to their children with such a low income. People in Pakistan thank God for being able to merely survive, but ‘the government of Pakistan needs to create better opportunities for earning’ says wajid Ali.

By line shared with Amna Sabahat. (You may contact Amna at


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