Pakistan’s elite protest price rise - from luxe cars

July 15th, 2008 - 2:24 pm ICT by IANS  

By Muhammad Najeeb
Faisalabad (Pakistan), July 15 (IANS) This was a protest with a difference. Pakistan’s elite businesspersons took to the streets against rising prices, brandished placards and shouted slogans too — but from behind the windows of their airconditioned cars in the scorching summer heat of Tuesday. As temperatures in this industrial city in central Punjab hit 45 degrees Celsius, industrialists came out to voice their protest the government’s failure in controlling prices and the fuel hike, probably the first such protest ever in the country.

“I think it was the funniest protests I’ve ever seen in my life,” university student Ali Hammad told IANS as the billionaire businessmen chanted slogans from their expensive vehicles with the windows firmly rolled up.

Hammad said he saw their lips moving but couldn’t hear any voice; “they had also pasted their placards on their back screens and some were carrying black flags,” the student added.

Interestingly, no one came out until their staffers joined them an hour later.

Realising that this was a media event, the ‘protesters’ had sent SOS messages to their respective factories and were joined by several of their staff members. This also encouraged some of the young sons of these industrialists to come out of their vehicles.

According to an official of the Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry, industrialists may have protested in the past but this was the first rally in which almost all leading industrialists of the city participated.

In the last five months, petroleum and gas prices in Pakistan have increased by almost 60 percent which has raised the cost of production.

The official said the huge increase in input cost would escalate the cost of production, rendering their goods uncompetitive in world markets and added that their very survival was at stake.

He said many small industrialists had been forced to close their businesses.

“Our cost for production of dozen lead pencils is now Rs.19 whereas pencils of the same quality are being smuggled from China for just Rs.5,” industrialist Shoaib Rizvi told IANS.

A senior official said that there was nothing the government could do as it had to fix prices according to international markets.

“But there are several options under consideration to provide relief to common people,” said the official requesting anonymity.

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