Petrol pump strike

Inflation does not mean pay rises if you are not powerful

The coinciding of the end of the strike by petrol pump owners coincided with Punjab MPAs deciding that they wanted a pay raise, and the resultant moving of the necessary summary. Both petrol pump owners and MPAs pleaded the effects of inflation were hitting them hard. That does reflect that inflation is having a great effect on everyone, but it also shows that relief might already be available to groups that are already well-heeled. The average petrol pump owner does not face a choice between eating or not, nor is the average MPA deciding against medical treatment because it is unaffordable. Also, both groups are privileged. The government does not want another petrol crisis, with long lines of vehicles forming, and pumps imposing their own rationing. Similarly, the government does not want the MPAs to get so riled that they vote it out: it goes without saying that the PTI’s MPAs are as anxious as their colleagues to get their pays raised.

One sign of desperation has been the perception that there has been a rise in crimes, especially those against property. This is particularly lethal, because apart from all the heads of families turning to crime because they are desperate to feed their families, young people who cannot find a job are also joining the criminal class. These are the people that are getting the message from the government that suffering because of inflation will only be redressed if one belongs to a powerful group.

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This is where the people might be driven towards revolt, because they have nothing to lose. People do have the option of ousting the government, if they so wish, at the next election. However, if they lose hope in this mechanism, they will have no way of dealing with misgovernance but to sweep away the entire system. Such anarchy is anathema, and that is why the Constitution provides such an elaborate power transfer mechanism. That is why tampering with that mechanism for partisan ends is such a bad idea. The consequences of people losing confidence in the electoral mechanism are horrendous, especially at this time of high inflation.

Editorial
The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected]

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