What is Wrong With These Pictures?

Posted on July 18, 2008
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Economy & Development, Law & Justice, Society
42 Comments
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Adil Najam

These pictures are of the violence and mayhem that erupted outside the Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad Stock Exchanges on Thursday after the market plunged yet again, to a 18-month low. Look at them carefully. What is wrong with them?Violence outside Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad Stock Exchanges, PakistanViolence outside Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad Stock Exchanges, PakistanViolence outside Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad Stock Exchanges, PakistanViolence outside Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad Stock Exchanges, Pakistan

What are they protesting? Showing anger, you say. But against whom? And what good will any of this bring? To whom? Will burning a tyre today make the market rise again tomorrow? If it could, New York would have been alight all of the last many weeks!

Here, is how the news report in Dawn explains the events:

Investors at the Karachi Stock Exchange resorted to violence on Thursday, ransacking the bourse’s furniture, pelting the glass doors and windows of the trading hall with stones and raising slogans against the government and the KSE management. Two people were slightly injured with glass splinters flying all over. The bourse management called in police and Rangers were also at the scene for a brief period, but the law-enforcement personnel stopped short of using force as the crowd dispersed after over an hour of violent protest.

Investors at the Islamabad and Lahore stock exchanges also went on the rampage, chanting slogans, pelting stones and lighting bonfire. The protesters demanded the end to ‘lower locks,’ which they said had greatly eroded the value of their investments. The investors’ frustration gave way to rioting as they watched the KSE-100 index on an unstoppable downward drift for 16 trading sessions in a row.

The market opened on Thursday with a massive 400 points decline in the KSE-100 index, adding to the earlier loss of 5,200 points that the market has seen in three months since the current meltdown began on April 18. Overall, the index has slipped by 35 per cent, but some of the individual stocks have shed as much as 50 to 70 per cent of their value. “I had invested Rs 2 million in blue chip stocks and almost half of it has been washed away,” said an agitated investor in the mob.

But of greater concern to the small investor was the early clamp of ‘lower locks,’ which blocked investor exit. ‘Upper and lower locks’ are the market mechanism which allows a maximum of five per cent gain or loss in the value of a stock during a single day. The long lingering phenomenon of ‘lower locks’ just at the commencement of the trading in the morning precluded any attempt by an investor to seek an exit from the market, even after taking the loss. A stock broker who asked not to be named said that the SECP had sliced the daily decline from 5 to 1 per cent for 15 days from June 28 to July 15, but that offered little solace to the small investors, many of whom were found on Thursday accusing the regulator of colluding with big brokers in the change of ‘overnight rules’.

Violence never has any logic. But this violence is beyond just illogical. One can understand the arguments about the “lower locks” and from one’s own experience one can sympathize with the helplessness of seeing your hard-earned savings evaporate. But how will breaking a window, burning a tire, ransacking a building going to solve anything?

The culture of angst, anger and violence that we have lamented often and repeatedly is at work again. Whether it is a fanatic killing a woman Minister just because he thinks women have no place in politics, or blackening someone’s face because you do not agree with their point of view, or community members burning a robber alive, or a mob attacking a WAPDA office because of load-shedding, or even the billigerent tone of some of our own commentators (it is never enough to say “I don’t agree with you”, some people have to throw in inflamatory rhetoric and personal attacks, as if just to add spice!), the tendency to self-ignite in violence is always near the surface and ever-ready to break through.

Why? For whose benefit? And what does it say about us as a people and as a society?

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42 responses to “What is Wrong With These Pictures?”

  1. Fahim says:

    Another item I tried to include in prior post, was this one, a 2 hour documentary that readers should view:
    http://realestateandhousing2.blogspot.com/

    Monday, July 28, 2008
    Hard Core Depression Warnings from 1998

  2. Fahim says:

    Hey we might be seeing anarchy in the US…
    http://www.prudentbear.com/index.php/GuestCommenta ryHome

    It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn…of a Depression
    http://www.prudentbear.com/index.php/GuestCommenta ryHome

    It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn…of a Depression

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