LAHORE - The persistence of the joint sit-ins in the Red Zone reflects that the roots of discontent are potentially deep, viewed Institute for Policy Reforms (IPR) through a fact-sheet released on Saturday on the protest by PTI and the PAT over rigging in last election and failure in registering Model Town killings.

According to the fact-sheet, the Dharnas will eventually come to an end, however, gathering of thousands of people from all age-group and largely belonging to poor and middle class, who have been holding up al fresco for more than a month, reflects that the roots of the discontent are potentially deep.

“These roots are increasing inflation, poor standards of living, unemployment, rise in inequality, crumbling law and order,” the data stated.

The IPR says Pakistan society, since 2007-08, have been facing a decline in the standard of living and inequality of income. Real income of urban households in the lowest quintile (20 per cent of the population) has fallen by 22 per cent and of the next quintile by 20pc, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS).There is a severe “squeeze” on the poor and the lower-middle class.

IPR’s fact-sheet shows from the findings of Social Policy and Development Centre (SPDC) that three million people are adding up under the poverty line every year. The number of poor now stands at over 65 million, over one third of the population. It is quite tragic that almost 37 million people do not get two square meals a day and striving hard from hunger.

It also observes from the findings of Pakistan Nutrition Survey of 2011 and 2013 that 58pc of the households are food insecure. Only 3pc of the children receive a diet that meets minimum standards. Consequently, 44pc of the children (under five years of age) are stunted and 32pc are underweight. Over 35pc of households in 2012-13, from a sample of over 75000 households in a survey by PBS, said that their economic situation was worse or much worse in relation to the previous year. Around 20pc of them said that they were better off, while 45pc saw no change.

As far as high unemployment is concerned, according to the fact sheet, the rate of overall underemployment is currently very high at almost 14pc, according to the Labour Force Survey of the PBS. Therefore, one in seven workers is unemployed or underemployed (only part time work).There are almost 5million youth (15-29 years) in the country who are ‘idle’, that is, neither studying nor in the labour force. These youth are particularly vulnerable to militancy and crime. They need to be productively engaged. The unemployment and underemployment among youth is even higher at over 16pc. Almost 6m youth need jobs and better prospects. New entrants into the labour force have only one in three chance of finding a job in the first year of search.

According to the IPR, the rise in inequality is another reason as real income of the poor and the middle class has fallen substantially. According to the Citizen Score Card of IPP, 12pc of the households reported a theft last year and 29pc reported snatching/street theft (47pc only in Karachi). Over the last five years, 18pc of the people have accessed to police stations, while 65pc had to pay a bribe to get an FIR lodged. 23pc of the BISP beneficiaries had to bribe the authorities to become part of the programme.

The IPR says that the seeds of discontent lie in high inflation (especially in food prices); sharp fall in real income and living standards of the poor and the middle class; increasing unemployment and underemployment (especially among youth and women); perceptible increases in inequality with the rich getting richer and a veritable collapse of law and order. The persistence of these negative developments over the last six years has led to a loss of hope and despair. The poor and marginalised have been left with no stakes in the system.