The man at the the puri shop

Published: August 24, 2010

Many go hungry in Pakistan but do not beg. PHOTO: REUTERS

One morning, we went to a Halwa Puri shop to have breakfast along with a group of old friends. It was here that my eyes fell upon an old man sitting on a footpath nearby, completely lost in his thoughts.  I was trying to read him. He looked nervous as if he lacked something. He was quiet with his hands over his head deeply lost in thoughts.

Talha, one of my friends asked that old man if he needed something, “Baba Ji Purian Khayen ge?”

The old man nodded saying, “Paisay Nahi hain.”

We managed to get him breakfast that morning but that incident never got off my mind. Every face has a story. Sometimes the story is the kind that makes you want to cry.

Many like that old Baba Ji move and sit around us, but we are unable to see them. In my 21 years of life, I have attended hundreds of weddings, and in those hundreds of weddings, I saw thousands of people wasting food, the food which could be life-saving for someone like Baba Ji. We live in a society that functions for people with money in their pockets, ignoring others who struggle for food.

We get aid from different countries to get rid of hunger, but often I wonder where does all the aid go? Instead of decreasing, hunger and poverty is increasing with each passing day. The World Bank has pledged $1.4 billion in aid and the Asian Development Bank has already released $500 million as the first tranche. And the US has pledged to arrange, through the World Food Program (WFP) and other UN agencies, approximately 11,000 metric tonnes of wheat for over 1.6 million Pakistanis, but the interesting thing is that, we still have close to 38 per cent of children in Pakistan who are either underweight or malnourished and around 36.2 per cent people who living below the poverty line. Primary enrollment of 5-9 years old children in Pakistan is the lowest in the region. Pakistan like many developing countries has been facing food shortages.

Food inflation soared beyond the control of the government on the one hand and food items went far beyond the access and affordability of the common man. The price hike during Ramazan has ignited social unrest in the country but the government response is more focused on complying with the donors demands rather than looking into the problem holistically.

Hunger is an important cause that is provoking crimes in our society. President Asif Ali Zardari unveiled a $450 million fund to support the poor in the form of the Benazir Income Support programme, but at this time 60 million Pakistani’s are facing food insecurity. According to the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute, levels of hunger in Pakistan are “alarming”, but instead of working on these most important domestic problems, our government is instead awaiting funds to wage a war against terrorism.

A society free of hunger will be a society free of crime. I shudder at times when I think that a representative of a mazdoor in parliament is living a luxurious life while that mazdoor still lives below poverty line. Our leaders are probably unaware of the fact that someday in God’s court they will have to provide answers for every person who slept hungry.


Rana Usman

A free-lance writer who also enjoys taking photographs. He is an under-graduate student of electronic engineering. He tweets @rana_usman

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • qasim

    “A society free of hunger will be a society free of crime.” Could not agree more here.Recommend

  • bunny

    Well nice expression of views… and its a dilemma that we are sleeping. Hundreds of people starving and only hundred families are enjoying the luxury of living in Pakistan. By the way Pakistan in not their homeland…they usually live abroad but comes to Pakistan only for ruling….Recommend

  • Muhammad Majeed Yaqoob

    Aslaam o Alikum
    Usman doing great yaar but please dont use word story
    truth cant be a story:/
    again solution isnt that hard, do we want to resolve solution or we left it for those so called elected ppl?
    grassroot level work hard for the country while cream enjoys.
    our population is almost 18crore and see we cant produce 500 graduate parliamentarians whatelse we will change?
    hunger isnt problem of pakistan GOD bestowed everything to this country all we need sincere persons loyal to country. but for that first we need to be loyal to ourself and our country.
    God help this countrymen and country
    prevention is better then cure yaar now its time to prevent :/Recommend

  • Ambreen

    on a day when i was too tight to buy food, it hit me what others endure. i avoid eating out since then. for me every extra amount i spend for my 2 seconds of taste bud pleasure is another person’s possible two meals foregone.

    but we should be happy: we realise. we mmust be doing something right for us to want to helpRecommend

  • Desert

    A very well written article, Usman.Recommend

  • beena

    A society free of hunger will be a society free of crime
    agreed to this statement =)Recommend

  • ali raza

    nice post ranaRecommend

  • Farhad Ali

    A society free of hunger will be a society free from crime [+1]Recommend

  • Adil Farooq

    well the scenaro of today is because we are loosing our true identity. If we just follow this one hadith, which says to give zakat that is made obligatory for every sahib e nisaab person to give to the poor and needy. There won’t be starvation and poverty letf in our nation. Islamic history also reveils this that there was a time when people gave zakat but there was no one to receive it. If we act upon this surely many people like baba ji will live a better life.Recommend

  • Nouman Khan


    This is only WE, who can manage to balance this economic difference. We may have to get rid of this Taxation system and get back our Zakat system.Recommend

  • Culprit

    It so reminds me of a saying of a frightened man! Scared of being questioned by ALLAH over his justice during his rule over the Muslim Ummah,

    I am very afraid to be accountable in
    front of Allah. I swear if a dog is
    died by hunger at the bank of Farat,
    Umar will be considered accountable
    for it in front of Allah”

    , that was when he was the Ameer-ul-Momineen. Have not learned anything from history! Is not the Holy Quran full of historical events! The amount of history that has been put in the Quran makes history the most important entity for a human being to learn if he ever does, ever wants to! What we have to learn here is not to cry over spilt milk, that’s not what a Muslim does, but learn from our mistakes, ask for forgiveness, and move ahead with a positive energy. Not only Zardari, but I will be questioned too, I have the money & the resources and people among me are hungry! I see hungry people every day, but I don’t give a damn! That’s what makes me worse than many. I should start acting today, so whenever I go out to take food, I will look for people around me who may be wanting but cannot afford. I think I should start by that. And I would suggest that you people reading this should too. The amount of pleasure & happiness that one can gain by doing a good is far better than the pleasure that we get from a hundred sins. That’s what makes us Muslims, because we don’t do it for ourselves, we do it to seek ALLAH’s forgiveness and bounty.Recommend

  • Rana Usman


    Subhan Allah! What a beautiful comment! I wish I could add this thing to my blog!

    Jazak ALlah! very thought provoking!.

    I strictly believe society free of hunger will be society free of crime.

    @ Majeed

    our population is almost 18crore and see we cant produce 500 graduate parliamentarians whatelse we will change?[+1]

    Very well said Sir.Recommend

  • Imaginations

    MashaAllah.. nice blog…
    And I 100% agreed to “Culprit”… We should not forget our moral values, must take stand for our people.
    We bring the change. InshaAllah.Recommend

  • arif syed

    great work rana iiui will be proud of you…..Recommend

  • zain

    its all about to think over such real facts of life.. u Rana rock =)Recommend

  • Suha

    Nice article Usman. If we truly loved for our brothers what we loved for ourselves, as the hadith states, love will increase amongst the Ummah and many people will be better off. Subhan-Allah.

    @Culprit.. agree with your comments, well said. If only the leaders of today saw the burden of responsibility and accountability which is truly on their shoulders, as with Amir al-Mu’mineen.Recommend

  • hassan

    good effort bro keep it up………….. ;)!Recommend

  • Mawali

    Garbage in garbage out!Recommend

  • Hammad

    Well Usman,
    If capital is facing this situation then where else in Pk you can find peace and a society free of hunger….?Recommend

  • Hammad

    Rana I invite you to please post your thoughts here in the following Blog…

    link text