Although another spell of rain has created pleasant weather in much of Pakistan, Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) remains hot and dry. The mercury has shot up to 42 degrees Celsius throughout much of the week, truly testing the patience of people fasting in Ramazan. Also, food inflation and frequent power outages have increased in the month are compounding the miseries of the poor.
“I can’t recall any previous Ramazan with such harsh conditions,” said Tashfin Rafiq, a local, as the heat wave persisted on Monday. No monsoon showers have been forecast in G-B this summer, in contrast to last year, when rain led to floods which devastated the infrastructure and took the lives of over 200 people in this mountainous region.
According to the Met department, the heat wave is likely to persist in the coming days. “Look at the high temperatures. There seem to be no signs of rain. The much needed respite isn’t anywhere close this month,” he said.
Working amid power outages all day, Rafiq, 40, a wholesaler, called fasting this year, ‘a real test’ for Muslims, as they are confronted with an ever expanding list of problems.
Gilgit city looks near-deserted from noon to 5pm, as people avoid going out to the markets due to the hot weather. However, as Iftar time approaches, the markets are flooded by consumers, leaving little space for vehicles to pass. Most shopping is done just before or soon after Iftar, when the temperature drops.
Karim Tahir, a resident of Jutial, said that long, unannounced loadshedding has marred the joys of fasting. “If this is the electricity situation in summer, what it will happen in the coming winter?” he asked.
G-B experiences up to 22 hours of loadshedding in winter, as water gets frozen in water channels, decreasing the amount of power production.
The government’s plan to keep a check on the prices of various commodities in Ramazan appears to have failed, as the rates of all most all daily-use commodities have increased drastically. “A member of the price control committee visits the markets almost every day but fails to implement the government prices,” said Murad Ali, a citizen. He felt that the government’s lack of will is the reason behind the non-implementation of government prices.
Charaguddin, a government magistrate, told The Express Tribune a different story, as he said that the government would take any shopkeepers defying government orders regarding prices to task. “Dozens of shopkeepers have been fined for overcharging,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2011.