Nationwide Strike by Pakistani Traders in Protest of Rampant Inflation and Skyrocketing Utility Costs

by Ryan Lee
Nationwide strike in Pakistan

On Saturday, merchants throughout Pakistan initiated a nationwide strike to voice their discontent over the escalating cost of living, including unprecedented hikes in fuel and utility expenses as well as a historic devaluation of the rupee against the U.S. dollar, eliciting public unrest.

Shopkeepers throughout the nation lowered their storefront shutters in a display of dissent, while demonstrators took to the streets, setting tires ablaze to manifest their frustration.

The work stoppage was organized by former Senator Sirajul Haq, the leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami religious political party. The strike garnered extensive support from various industry and trade organizations, market groups, legal associations, and transportation sectors.

Karachi, the country’s financial and commercial nucleus, was almost entirely shut down, with sparse vehicle movement on the roads and a universal closure of retail outlets and shopping complexes.

Fahad Ahmed, a Karachi-based trader, articulated the exasperation of the commercial community: “We have closed our businesses as an outcry to get the attention of the governing authorities. If our concerns continue to be neglected, we will contemplate more radical measures. If one is burdened with a rent of Rs100,000 (approximately $330) for a retail space, on top of an equivalent utility bill, sustaining such a business becomes unfeasible.”

In Lahore, the capital of the Punjab province, all primary commercial zones remained shuttered. Legal professionals abstained from court proceedings, and both intercity and local public transportation systems were non-operational. Similar closures were witnessed in the northwestern city of Peshawar and the southwestern city of Quetta.

According to the latest statistics from the government-operated Bureau of Statistics, Pakistan’s annual inflation rate registered at 27.4% for the month of August. Prior to securing a crucial financial package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the country was teetering on the edge of default. As a condition for the financial aid, Pakistan had to curtail existing subsidies, thereby exacerbating the financial pressures on the general populace, notably in terms of energy costs.

Mohammad Sohail, a distinguished economist and the chief executive of Topline Securities, commented on the ongoing economic ordeal, stating that Pakistan faces daunting challenges despite being under the IMF program. He attributed the rampant inflation primarily to the depreciating rupee and noted that stringent stabilization strategies alongside bolstering foreign exchange reserves could potentially temper both currency and price-level volatilities.

The Pakistani rupee has undergone significant depreciation, breaking the 300-to-the-dollar threshold. This devaluation has a cascading effect, amplifying import costs and thereby contributing to rising inflation.

Jamal Uddin, a merchant participating in a protest in Dera Ghazi Khan, asserted that the untenable economic conditions have forced him and his peers to keep their businesses closed, as their earnings are no longer sufficient to support their households.

In Multan, Shamim Bibi, a widow and mother of three, lamented the unbearable living conditions. She revealed that her daughters had to abandon their education, and her young son had to man a food stand to make ends meet. “Our existence has become a series of hardships due to exorbitant utility charges, fuel costs, and rising rents,” she said.

However, caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar downplayed the impact of the public’s grievances, categorizing the protests and associated complaints as inconsequential.

Contributions to this report were made by Mohammad Farooq in Karachi, Babar Dogar in Lahore, Asim Tanveer in Multan, Riaz Khan in Peshawar, and Abdul Sattar in Quetta, Pakistan.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Nationwide strike in Pakistan

What led to the nationwide strike by Pakistani traders?

The nationwide strike was primarily instigated by the escalating cost of living in Pakistan, which includes unprecedented hikes in fuel and utility bills, as well as a historic devaluation of the rupee against the U.S. dollar.

Who organized the nationwide strike in Pakistan?

The strike was organized by former Senator Sirajul Haq, who is the leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami religious political party. It received extensive support from various trade and business organizations, market associations, legal bodies, and transportation sectors.

Which major cities were affected by the strike?

Major Pakistani cities including Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, and Quetta were affected by the strike. Karachi, the financial hub of Pakistan, was almost completely shut down, and Lahore, the capital of Punjab, saw all its primary markets closed.

What was the public reaction to the economic conditions?

The public reaction has been one of frustration and discontent, manifested through protests and strikes. Business owners have shut their shops, lawyers abstained from court proceedings, and there was a noticeable reduction in public and intercity transportation.

What is Pakistan’s current annual inflation rate?

According to the latest statistics released by the government-operated Bureau of Statistics, Pakistan’s annual inflation rate was 27.4% for the month of August.

How has the IMF bailout package affected the situation?

As a condition for the financial aid package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Pakistan was required to cut back on existing subsidies. This likely contributed to the financial pressure on the general populace, notably increasing energy costs.

What are experts saying about the economic challenges faced by Pakistan?

Mohammad Sohail, a prominent economist, noted that despite being under an IMF program, Pakistan is experiencing challenging times. He identified the depreciating rupee as a primary driver of inflation and recommended stringent stabilization measures to address the situation.

What has been the impact on the Pakistani rupee?

The Pakistani rupee has significantly depreciated against the U.S. dollar, crossing a threshold of 300 rupees to the dollar. This devaluation is contributing to rising import costs, which in turn exacerbates inflation.

How did the caretaker Prime Minister respond to the strike?

Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar downplayed the impact of the protests and related complaints, referring to them as a “nonissue.”

How are ordinary citizens coping with the economic conditions?

Ordinary citizens are finding it increasingly difficult to meet their daily needs. For example, in Multan, a widow named Shamim Bibi revealed that her daughters had to leave school, and her son took up a job running a food stand to make ends meet.

More about Nationwide strike in Pakistan

  • Pakistan’s Annual Inflation Rate
  • International Monetary Fund’s Bailout Package for Pakistan
  • Profile of Jamaat-e-Islami and Sirajul Haq
  • Economic Analysis by Mohammad Sohail
  • Pakistan Bureau of Statistics Inflation Data
  • Rupee-to-Dollar Exchange Rate History
  • Impact of Currency Depreciation on Inflation
  • Nationwide Protests and Public Sentiments in Pakistan

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Emily K September 2, 2023 - 12:33 pm

Such a comprehensive article. You covered it all from who’s behind it to the very real impacts on everyday ppl. just wish there was some resolution in sight.

Sara_N September 2, 2023 - 1:37 pm

It’s heartbreaking to read about families strugglin to make ends meet. The govt really needs to step up here.

AlexW September 2, 2023 - 5:00 pm

Thanks for the in-depth coverage. Had no idea about the rupee depreciating that much. Puts things into perspective.

Linda F September 2, 2023 - 8:55 pm

well researched article. It’s sad to see how many are affected, from business owners to little kids who have to leave school. This needs global attention ASAP.

MikeT September 3, 2023 - 5:33 am

So the IMF bailout’s making things worse huh? Classic. What’s the point of aid if it’s gonna be like this?

RajivM September 3, 2023 - 6:52 am

When will politicians learn? You can’t just ignore the public and call their suffering a “nonissue”. Good on the traders for taking a stand.

Tim_G September 3, 2023 - 8:09 am

So basically, the whole country’s on the edge and no one’s doing anything substantial. Got it.

John D September 3, 2023 - 8:21 am

Wow, didn’t know things were this bad in Pakistan. 27.4% inflation? That’s insane! How are people even surviving?


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