Pakistan bombings by Taliban hit lower classes hardest
On Tuesday, the latest Taliban bomb went off in Peshawar, killing three. The Taliban targets upscale buildings and neighborhoods, but many of the injured – and those hit hardest economically by the bombings in Pakistan – are the poor.
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Average Pakistanis earn $67 a month. And that's what some local shops pay their guards. In one marketplace here, storeowners can’t afford that much. So, they pool money to pay three men to roam their plaza. But some question the effectiveness of the guards: Spread so far out, they are difficult to spot, limiting their ability to deter potential attacks.Skip to next paragraph
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But the guards posted conspicuously at either entrance of a burger joint in a nice part of Islamabad don’t inspire much confidence either. Their uniforms look regal, complete with red cravat and sash. But their guns are not loaded; bullets are kept in a pouch by their side. “If a suicide bomber comes, nobody can stop him. [The guards at the entrance are] just for the satisfaction of the customers,” says Jamil Rehman, the cashier inside, waving at a dozen diners spaced between empty booths.
Less equipped to cope with fallout
At a dozen shops and eateries in Islamabad, owners say business has dropped by at least half as people seek to avoid crowded places that may be targeted by suicide bombers. For each proprietor watching their revenues shrink, several times more waiters and sales clerks are also feeling the loss but have less of a cushion to bear it.
Mohammed Yusuf, who works 17 hours a day delivering orders for a restaurant by foot and is paid entirely on commission, says on a good day these days he makes $2. Fear of attack has made him work harder – he now zigzags around groups of more than eight people and hurries back to the restaurant to take cover.
“All I do all day is work and worry about how bad the situation is,” he exclaims, adding that he also frequently watches news of the attacks on TV and “feels disgusted” when he sees that women and children were killed.
Though fear and anxiety have hit Pakistanis across the socioeconomic spectrum, the poor are generally worse-prepared to handle such unnerving events, says Murad Khan, head of the psychiatry department at Aga Khan University in Karachi.
They are dealing with so many hardships already that with the added troubles “a lot more people just go over the edge,” he says. They also have less access to information about coping or to a psychologist, which costs a prohibitive $6 to $25 a visit anyway.
Sources of worry, and hope, for all
Exacerbating people’s stress is the widely shared view that things will only get worse as the Pakistan Army expands its offensive against the Taliban and the Taliban retaliate with more bombings. Some also worry that the bombings will only stop if the Army defeats all the militants, or if the government fixes the chronic inequality and poverty that gives rise to militancy – both daunting tasks.
For now, says Khan, many people will continue to take comfort in their families and their faith, two things that often play an important role in Pakistanis’ lives, rich or poor.