LAHORE-Record food inflation in the country has forced families across Pakistan to tighten their belts during the holy month of Ramazan, as surging food and oil prices has reduced purchasing power of the public particularly the low-income groups for the Iftar festivities. Unbearable utility bills, transport fares in the big cities and high prices of food items such as fruits, vegetables, eggs, meat and cooking oil surged during the week leading up to the start of Ramazan on Tuesday has left major population of the country with no other option but to hardly meet both the ends. Pakistan has seen a hike in the cost of food items in the lead-up to the holy month, putting pressure on families already hit hard by sharp rises in fuel, electricity and gas prices. Kausar Parvin, a housewife, 33, resident of Walled City said her family had to forsake traditional Ramazan treats so she could save money for basics like children's clothes. 'No meat, no sweets, no chicken dishes, just vegetables. And old clothes for my husband, and me', she said. 'I am trying to save enough for the children's new clothes. It may be hard times for us now but we would not drag our children along', said the mother of four. Her husband Mushtaq Khan is working as a grade-7 employee in the Punjab Health Department and is earning almost Rs 10,000 per month. She further said that to break the fast every night, she used to offer a traditional feast (Pakwan) made with Basin, cooking oil, chicken meat, and potato besides serving fruit chat, Dahi Bhallay and milk flavoured with banana and sweets. 'We used to serve delicious dishes like fruit-chat, Dahi Bhallay, potato chips and other fried items for my family to break the fast before we had the main meal consisting of rice and chicken dishes. But as everything has become very expensive we can't afford it anymore', she said straightforwardly. 'Our religion and our Holy Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) advised us to break the fast with sweet things like dates but I have to think rationally. It's more important to have proper food on the table than sweets, so we can continue to perform the fast until the end of Ramazan', she maintained. Food inflation is touching all time high records and reached above 33 per cent in Pakistan after fuel prices were hiked on four occasions after February 18 elections. The govt also cut down subsidies on oil, electricity and gas during this year to save the budget from a ballooning subsidy bills. The fuel price hike was applauded by economists but triggered protests across the country, giving a political edge to this year's Ramazan as campaigning swings into gear for next Presidential elections, to be held on September 6 with PPP Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari, the strong but a controversial candidate. Spouse of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Zardari is also considered favourite for winning Presidential race but his popularity ratings have slumped in favour of his former main ally Mian Nawaz Sharif over the issue of reinstatement of judiciary. 'Zardari doesn't care about us, he only makes empty promises and causes suffering', said a street vendor Muhammad Khan, 35, in Mozang area. 'The protests and holding strikes are nothing except a futile exercise as prices don't come down? We need better and sincere leadership', he added. Kausar Parvin further said that she was spending over Rs 2,500 every month on utility bills, almost a quarter of their monthly earnings. We have to pay Rs 3000 as house rent every month, she said. 'I have slashed my children's pocket money and make them walk instead of taking the bus to school. If prices rise further, I may be forced to pull them out of school', she maintained. 'Whatever profit I get now will be spent on buying essential commodities and school fees of my two children reading in class III and V respectively, when previously I could use the extra to buy clothing and food items for Iftar', she said. Families across the Punjab Capital and its suburban areas are sailing in the same boat. Kalsoom Bibi, 40, a resident of Sabzazar said rising food, gas and electricity prices had crushed her hopes of buying food items for Iftar and Sehr to decorate the dining table for her family in the holy month of Ramazan. The housewife and her three young children have to work all the day to earn living. Kalsoom is housemaid in the posh locality of Iqbal Town while her young children are working at a workshop and roadside restaurant respectively. Her husband Khalid Pahlwan is a riskshaw driver. All have to work from dawn-to-dusk and their collective earning is Rs 600 to Rs 750 daily. Another car-mechanic Bashir Akhtar, 27, residing in Chuhng locality said he took home only about Rs 500 to Rs 600 a day. I am lucky that I have my own three-marla house with two bedrooms and a little guest room at the top. 'To the rich, Rs 500 is nothing but for poor people like us it's a big deal. It's the difference between eating and starving', said his 26-year-old wife, Azra Bibi. According to the market sources, the prices of most of the food items including fruits, dates and chicken meat have surged by 80 to 100 per cent here in the City as compared to the last year in the month of Ramazan. The fruits and vegetable market dealers said the increasing transportation cost and rising demand as compared to the supply are the major factors behind the increase in the prices of fruits and vegetables as the demand of both the food items soared to a reasonable extent during Ramazan. 'Every year the prices of fruits and vegetables shoot up during Ramazan because the market dealers start selling food items on high prices to the vendors'. Consequently, the vendors are left with no other option but to charge high prices from the consumers, Imdad Khan a vendor said. Believe it or not, the price of chicken meat has surged by Rs 150 to Rs 155 per-kg from the last year's price of Rs 115 to Rs 120. Basin price has reached to Rs 60 per-kg from Rs 36 while cooking oil is available at Rs 130 per kg when last year its price was Rs 100 to Rs 110.   Potato price has shot up to Rs 30 per-kg from the previous years' price of Rs 18 to Rs 22 while onion is being sold at Rs 40 per-kg from the last years' rate of Rs 22 to Rs 22. Similarly, tomato price is Rs 40 to Rs 45 which last year was registered at Rs 20 to Rs 22. The price of milk has surged by Rs 12 per-kg and is being sold at Rs 32 to Rs 36 while last year its price was Rs 22 to Rs 24. Mangos are being sold at Rs 60 to Rs 80 in various parts of the provincial metropolis. Last year, the mango price was registered at Rs 40 to Rs 60. The price of apple has surged to Rs 100 per-kg to Rs 120 per-kg from the previous year's price of Rs 60 to Rs 80. The price of A-grade banana has gained by Rs 20 per dozen and jumped to Rs 50 to Rs 70 from the last year's price of Rs 35 to Rs 45. However, the prices of A-grade grapes surged to Rs 70 to Rs 90 per-kg in the local market. The price of dates Rs 80 to Rs 140 while last year in Ramazan it was sold at Rs 40 to Rs 80 per-kg.