RAWALPINDI: The district administration seems helpless to implement directives from Prime Minister Imran Khan to lower the prices of edible goods and stop hoarding.

Instead, the Punjab government has opened Sahulat Bazaars where the official price list for edible goods is to be implemented. However, these markets have not drawn the attention of most residents.

According to market prices, tomatoes are being sold for Rs170 per kg, ginger for Rs450 per kg, garlic for Rs300 per kg, potatoes for Rs85 per kg, onions for Rs80 per kg, eggs for Rs190 per dozen and chicken for Rs180 per kg.

Opposition political parties in the garrison city have said the government’s Sahulat Bazaars are not the answer to skyrocketing food prices, calling on the government to make the effort to reduce the cost of wheat flour, sugar, vegetable oil, eggs and vegetables.

PTI Punjab North Deputy General Secretary Arif Abbasi, however, said the government was working to bring down food prices that were increased in what he claimed was an artificial price hike by a ‘mafia’ sponsored by corrupt political parties.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan is working day and night to improve the economy of the country and its trickle down effects will reach the people in a few days.

“The mafia is creating an artificial price hike due to hoarding but we will tackle them,” he said.

He said the opposition was trying to divert the government’s attention to non-issues by holding “corner meetings.”

Rawalpindi residents have complained that the cost of edible goods at open markets is through the roof and lower quality products are being supplied in the market, while the Punjab government engages in politics over Sahulat Bazaars, which are providing cheaper products to people.

Former PML-N MNA Malik Shakeel Awan asked who would keep a check on the administration giving shopkeepers the freedom to fleece buyers when government ministers are busy issuing anti-opposition statements.

He said the civic bodies have not taken action against traders because they support and are patronised by local PTI leaders. He also said food prices in the open market have risen due to the government’s economic policies.

PPP Rawalpindi chapter spokesperson Nasir Mir said the government had failed to deliver and the administration was busy setting up markets that were mere eyewash.

He said people typically buy foods from their localities and do not visit “sasta bazaars” to shop. He said there was also a perception that the foods sold in these markets were of lower quality.

“Sugar and wheat flour prices have skyrocketed in recent months. Eggs are available for Rs190 per dozen, chicken for Rs190 per kg and milk for Rs120 to Rs130 per litre. In this situation, daily wagers cannot afford to buy these things,” he said.

Deputy Commissioner Anwarul Haq on Saturday reviewed Sahulat Bazaars along with Punjab Minister for Literacy Raja Rashid Hafeez.

Mr Hafeez said whole sellers should reduce the percentage of their profits and facilitate consumers by selling essential commodities at reasonable prices not just in these bazaars but in the open market.

He also praised the chairman of the Market Committee for regulating the wholesale prices of daily use items.

Published in Dawn, October 26th, 2020