If there is one subject people never get bored with, it just has to be ‘food’. And yet, if truth be known, this highly emotive subject is, from whichever angle it is examined, a debate about basic security: those who are in the privileged position of knowing exactly where their next meal is coming from, view food in a very different light than the vast majority of the population for whom food insecurity is a harsh reality of……..no……..not life…….but of existence.

The fact that eating out, for those who can afford it, is currently the fastest growing ‘entertainment’ trend in Pakistan does not mean that the country, as a whole, is food secure as it is most certainly not and to claim, as some do, that people only eat out because they have no other enjoyable way of spending their ‘off’ time is a complete fallacy too.

People eat out because they love food - look at the expanding (pun intended) number of overweight people around in places where those with money in their pockets choose to hang out like shopping malls and it is immediately apparent that gluttony is now a rapacious disease, an unsustainable disease the way the world is going but a burgeoning disease nevertheless. The fact that it is limited to a certain segment of the population does not make it any more acceptable either.

Food, the majority of it totally or partially imported and largely jam packed full of dangerous chemicals and other questionable additives, is increasingly the be all and certainly ‘end all’ of a complacent lifestyle where, apparently immune to what have long been the daily atrocities of life in the form of drone attacks, suicide bombers and target killings, every minute revolves around what to eat next: although the jaws of the moneyed are rarely idle as there are always those in-between snacks to consume.

At the other, extremely bleak, end of the spectrum, exist those who survive, hand to mouth, on perhaps two ‘meals’ per day if, that is, tea and roti qualifies as a meal. And on whom, in so many ways, the future of this country, if it is to have one, ultimately exists as it is they, not the wealthy, who perform the endless toil on which the country’s economic future is based.

This unforgivable inequality having as its root cause a lack of equal educational opportunities for all: there is no point in repeating the endless mantra of ‘blame the government’ as there is far more to this cruel situation than a ‘simple’ governmental decree can resolve. Although, at the same time, no government, be this past, present or future, can possibly be let off the hook and the government is far from being the only culprit.

The population is, or so it is claimed, totally responsible for electing the government of the day, week, month or for however long its term of office manages to last. Therefore, when it comes down to the basic nitty-gritty of what is wrong with the country as a whole, it is, like it or not and most people will not, the population’s own fault, be they educated or otherwise, as all, or yet again so it is claimed, are entitled to, at the very least, vote.

But the inescapable fact is that most do not and even in the face of dire adversity - such as the times endured right now - few people are sensible enough, or brave enough, to stand up and speak out and so it is with food inequality too.

Pakistan is a major food importer: food, largely in the shape of fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs etc, is imported from India via Wagah border on a daily basis, as are the same and a huge range of fresh and processed food products originating from the Gulf, the Middle East, Europe, America and Australia to name but a few sources of what currently comprises the daily necessities of life and, whilst there is, basically, nothing wrong with global trade.

It is relevant to point out that Pakistan itself should, irrespective of the increasing impact of climate change, be doing far more than it is, which is just about nothing, to both improve and expand on its own, indigenous food production as, to illustrate the multitude of reasons for this with just one important example, food produced within the country where it is to be consumed, should, providing that honest trading practices are followed, be affordable to the masses struggling to survive on miniscule amounts of ready cash. However, painful as the truth of the matter is, this is unlikely ever to be as greed long since came home to roost.

The voracious appetite the ‘haves’ have developed for food is equalled by their greed for material possessions and, in order to purchase these perceived needs, they must have the wherewithal necessary. Thus, for the majority of such rabid consumers, complete and utter disregard of the plight of fellow human beings is a price they are more than happy to pay.

The writer is author of The Gun Tree: One Woman’s War (Oxford University Press, 2001) and lives in Bhurban.   Email: zahrahnasir@hotmail.com