Pakistan flood victims fast for Ramadan

Pakistan flood victims fast for Ramadan

Muslim victims of Pakistan's worst flood in its 63-year history are respecting the fast for Ramadan, whether they wish to or not, dpa reported.

Since Thursday, neither the government nor the many aid organizations are providing food during the day, delivering meals only before the fast begins in the morning, and after it it is broken in the evening.

The government is bound to respect Ramadan by law, and the aid organizations by their respect for local custom.

"I am a Muslim but I don't fast, it is my choice," said Jamil Mastoi, staying at a relief camp near Jampur, a small town in central province of Punjab that was submerged by the waters over the weekend. "But now I have no choice."

"They gave us some cooked rice for sehri (the traditional pre-fast morning meal) this morning and now we will get something to eat at iftari (the evening meal to break the fasting)," added Mastoi.

"I wish I could have some food in between but, you know, all restaurants are closed anyway, there are some grocery shops open but there is still water in the streets."

Not everyone is as secular-minded. The majority of the population in the Islamic republic of Pakistan fast from dawn to dusk during Ramadan, in what is regarded an exercise of control over their desires.

To break the fast in the evening, observant Muslims traditionally sit down together to eat dates and strongly seasoned dishes. It is a ritual that many in the camps say they are going to miss.

"We used to cook so many things at home during Ramadan, so many tasty things, but here we are getting only rice in the morning and rice in the evening," said Fatima Bibi. "It's not the same Ramadan as before but we are still happy that we are safe and well."

The United Nations estimate that the floods have affected 14 million people, and killed over 1,200. Appealing for international aid, the world body said it would require 460 million dollars to meet the immediate survival needs of six million survivors.

Floods also struck tens of thousands of hectares of crops. Pakistan's finance minister said early this week that the country would miss this year's gross domestic product growth target of 4.5 per cent.

Some analysts have suggested that inflation could rise further, adding to the difficulties of even those who escaped the floodwaters.

Markets in Islamabad are showing signs of the pressures. The prices for fruit and vegetables have doubled, mainly because the roads are blocked and supplies are not reaching the city.

Traders are hording items like pulses, rice and wheat, counting on prices to eventually rise as supplies run low, now that many stockpiled foodstuffs have been lost.

"When I ask the shopkeeper the price of a vegetable, it comes like an electric shock to me. Everything is so expensive," said Zahida Khatoon, a 47-year-old barber's wife, as she shopped in an market in central Islamabad. "What I should buy, I have no idea. I can't afford anything."

Many others are concerned that rising food prices could make it harder to buy new clothes and shoes for their children for Eid-al-Fitr, the Islamic festival that marks the end of Ramadan.

"Look at these people," housewife Sadia Aslam said of the hoarding traders. "They have no fear of God. They just want to make a profit over people's corpses."

"If we spend all the money on food, what we will have for Eid? Should I tell my children on the day that it is not Eid but still Ramadan, so they should fast some more instead of having some nice clothes and food?"

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