The end of Ramadan, Eid ul Fitr, is normally a time of great joy and celebration for Muslims all over the world, but in Pakistan this year, the high levels of inflation and political turmoil have dampened the mood. Pakistan, with over 220 million people, is deeply in debt and needs to introduce tough reforms to unlock a tranche of a $6.5 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund to avoid default. The country has been severely affected by years of financial mismanagement, political instability, a global energy crisis and devastating floods that left a third of the country under water last year.
Pakistan’s small shops and businesses usually rely on the end of Ramadan as a guaranteed earner, with a big-spending week that could match the take from the rest of the year. However, this year, many businesses worry they will not even make enough to pay their monthly rent. The year-on-year inflation hit 35.4 per cent in March, with food prices surging more than 47 per cent in 12 months, and transport costs rising by 55 per cent.
“There are no customers, there are no buyers,” said Shehzad Ahmed, who runs a shop selling bags, jewellery and other goods in Lahore. Many small traders like Sheikh Amir, who runs a small shop selling glass bangles and imitation jewellery, said he was usually able to earn enough for the whole year during Eid. “It’s become very difficult these days,” he said. “We are just going through the motions in the hope that we will be able to make enough to pay the rent for our shops.”
In addition to the high inflation rates, political turmoil in the country has also contributed to the subdued mood. The economy has been wrecked by years of financial mismanagement and political instability, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made the situation even worse. With the end of Ramadan, many shopping districts across the country usually see a surge in spending in the week leading up to the holiday, which begins with the sighting of the new moon, expected this weekend. However, this year, all have reported a significant drop in sales.
The dire economic situation has forced many families to cut back on expenses and adopt a budget-conscious approach this Eid. For example, Fatima Azhar Mehmood, a mother of seven daughters, has had to be frugal with her expenses, and instead of buying off-the-rack clothes for the girls, she went shopping for fabric in the Old Lahore district and plans to home-stitch their Eid outfits. “We have to buy rations, buy things for the children… and our rent is going to be due soon too,” she said. “Everything is upon us at the same time.”
In conclusion, the high levels of inflation and political instability in Pakistan have cast a sombre mood over the normally vibrant markets during the end of Ramadan, which is usually a time of great joy and celebration. The dire economic situation has forced many families to cut back on expenses, and small shops and businesses are struggling to make ends meet, hoping to earn enough to pay the rent for their shops.