The enemy of my enemy
A gristly attack at a maternity hospital in Kabul on Tuesday left 16 people dead, including two newborn babies. Gunmen wearing police uniforms attacked Dasht-e-Barchi Hospital, where the Nobel Prize-winning international charity Doctors Without Borders runs a maternity clinic. The savages responsible murdered babies, pregnant women, and children, while injuring at least a dozen other people. While no group has taken responsibility, the evidence would suggest that the attack came from Daesh, the only group that has not treated hospitals as off-limits for attacks. After a bombing outside a hospital last year, the Taliban were apologetic, trying to explain that their target was actually the intelligence building next door. Daesh, meanwhile, showed no remorse while taking credit for the 2017 attack on a Kabul hospital which killed at least 49 people. Further evidence is provided by the fact that the night before the attack, Afghan intelligence claimed to have arrested a local Daesh leader.
Worryingly, the attack in Kabul was not even the deadliest attack of the day. A suicide bomber also attacked the funeral of a police commander in Nangahar, killing at least 24 people. Daesh is also known to be active in Nangahar. But even though the Taliban have denied responsibility, the Afghan government wasted no time in blaming them by name. Afghan national security adviser blamed the Taliban and “their proxies”, while President Ashraf Ghani said the government would go on the offensive against the Taliban and others. The Taliban actually made a much stronger argument, noting that the “heinous assaults” came when the Taliban are trying to negotiate for peace in the country, and that the biggest beneficiary of the continuing war in Afghanistan is in Kabul. They also accused the government of sheltering Daesh to use them as a tool against them. This points at a harsh reality. The Taliban see Daesh as the last legitimate enemy in their quest to retake the country. How does the government see them?
Despite falling demand
Contrary to expectations, prices of chicken have increased in Karachi even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, in a strange defiance of the law of demand. Over the past few days, the wholesale price of live birds has increased to Rs210 a kg from Rs140 and that of chicken meat to Rs367 a kg from Rs245. The price of boneless chicken is higher. Veal is selling for Rs600-700 a kg and mutton for Rs1,200 a kg. Quality fish is available for Rs700 a kg. Even if we make an allowance for the usual rise in prices of food items in Ramazan, the increase in prices of chicken and chicken meat leaves us perplexed considering the decline in demand for chicken following the prolonged shutdown put in place to control the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
Hotels, restaurants and wedding halls have been staying closed in Sindh since the third week of March, and other social gatherings too are not taking place. These are places of meat consumption. Logically, such a situation should have brought down the prices of chicken, but ironically things are going in the opposite direction. One apparent reason for the price hike is that sensing a decrease in consumption and bottlenecks in transportation of chickenfeed and birds, poultry farmers had decided to cut down on production of broiler chickens, especially in view of the hot weather when heat threatens the survival of chicks.
However, profiteering too could account for the price rise both at the wholesale and retail levels. Since most of the government machinery is engaged in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, traders are taking undue advantage of the situation. Usually, during Ramazan, traders rip off consumers through price gouging. Seldom do they sell things at prices prominently displayed at their shops. Economists hold that traders don’t need government permission to lower prices. But more often than not they don’t need the administration’s permission to increase prices.