Data Durbar: Food Crisis

Posted on May 6, 2008
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Economy & Development, Society
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Adil Najam

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These photographs were taken at Daata Sahib (Daata Darbar), Lahore, on Sunday, May 4, by Associated Press photographer Emilio Morenatti. The suggested photo description reads:

Pakistani[s] struggle to get a piece of bread during a food distribution outside the Data Durbar mosque in Lahore, Pakistan, on Sunday, May 4, 2008. World rice and other grains prices have risen sharply this year because of growing demand, poor weather and rising cost of petroleum in some grain-producing countries. Some Asian countries, including India and Vietnam, recently suspended rice exports to guarantee their own supplies.

The current – and future – food crisis (in Pakistan and elsewhere) is something that I spend a lot of time thinking about in my professional life these days. And Daata Sahib is a place I have been visiting for longer than I can remember. Based on this, I can say that had the photographer gone to Data Sahab at just about any time he could have taken such photographs of people who come to get food being distributed as charity by the devotees. That fact notwithstanding, the pictures are poignant metaphors for a food crisis that is real and shows all signs of becoming ever more real for ever more people. And all over the world, including in Pakistan.

In the case of Pakistan, the food crisis comes hand in hand with an energy crisis and in an environment already rife with political uncertainty and extremist threats. Food and energy shortages could become worse this summer. Food shortages do not make a companion to long periods of energy outages (load-shedding). This is a dangerous mix and those currently engrossed in political shenanigans might soon find that their best laid political plans would come to naught if these basic needs remain unmet.

Passions flared by empty stomachs and load-shedding induced restlessness can be a terrible thing.

39 responses to “Data Durbar: Food Crisis”

  1. Riaz Haq says:

    The food crisis is a very serious issue threatening more than a third of the world population with starvation. Alarm bells are now sounding in various world capitals to act on an emergency basis or else face a massive humanitarian disaster and major security crisis from resulting social strife.
    Please refer to my blog posts on this subject at

  2. Daktar says:

    The current food crisis is a complex and multi-dimensional problem and too many of the comments are trying to find unidimensional excuses. As often happens, a number of different forces have combined to create this problem. These include:

    1-Global grain shortages and rising prices.
    2-Population growth as well as growth in food consumption.
    3-(In Pakistan’s case) grain smuggling to Afghanistan and maybe also India.
    4-Lack of growth in production over recent years.
    5-Problems of access and availability (as opposed to amount of grain available).
    6-Diversion of corn to ethanol (but not in Pakistan’s case yet)

    I am sure there are others too.

    The point is that if we are to resolve the challenge then we will have to devise multidimensional strategies to respond to these many problems.

  3. Dilsenomad says:

    I want to say that we are reaping what we had sowed. It is easy to blame systemic causes for the state of affairs in our country. The feudal system and the corrupt politicians. But we are part of the system, we make it. The people in power are ‘us’; we are oppressing our own people. somebody said: A vessel can only pour forth from what it contains. Every individual I have met, including myself, is concerned about how he can improve his own life. There is an urgent need for a larger definition of the self, that encompasses the people of our communities. We can all make things better. We should complement our talking with actions.

    For instance, everyone is talking about the electricity crisis, but we should have seen this coming, for years we have evaded paying our bills, our taxes etc. Before we hold anyone else accountable, lets hold ourselves accountable.

  4. Ali Dada says:

    Brother Haider,

    I never said I hated or was not interested in Pakistan.

    I will remain ‘unpassionate’ about Pakistan until Pakistan ends its feudal system. When it does, I will start making positive comments. The whole country is a huge plantation. Few rich control the poor masses.

    And BTW, for Pro India people – India is worse in this regard as well than Pakistan.

  5. Haider says:

    Dear Ali Dada,
    If you would not have any passion for pakistan then you would not be browsing and making comments on “Pakistaniat”. I think you need to be truthful to yourself.

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