In this, the final gallop towards the holy month of Ramadan, the concerned authorities have announced the strict imposition of measures against food adulteration and profiteering for a period of approximately one month, which proclamation, an annual event, is nothing other than ridiculous. If these 'concerned authorities gave a dam about the health and financial well being of the much abused public at large, relevant action would be taken against those endangering lives and harvesting unwarranted profits on each and every single day of the year not just for one particular month - holy as it unquestionably is. Food adulteration, like profiteering, takes place all the year round: Spices and pasta are adulterated with the addition of toxic, chemical colourings, as are soft drinks and sweets and a whole host of other edible and drinkable products and little, if any, sustainable action is taken against the perpetrators of this unforgivable crime. One or two guilty manufacturers or private entrepreneurs are, admittedly, hauled up before the courts now and then. Their operations are closed down, fines imposed and sometimes even paid and then the criminals find themselves back on the street, absolutely free to start up their lucrative adulteration businesses all over again, albeit under a different name and where, one may ask, is the justice in this? Food items, along with everything else it is possible to think of, have soared, astronomically, in price over recent months, they continue to do so on an almost daily basis, for one purported reason or another. Ordinary people face an extremely difficult task in keeping their families adequately fed, clothed, housed, educated and provided with medical attention when required and the shameful fact that some of the food items they purchase, be these of necessary daily use or otherwise, can, over a period of time, prove hazardous to health is quite beyond the pale. Permanent, not part-time, quality control has long been required and claiming to introduce it for just one month a year is nothing more than a slap in the face for the long suffering, surprisingly tolerant, people of this huge and restless nation. Profiteers are, presumably, easier to catch in action as butchers and vegetable and fruit sellers have learnt to their cost but profiteering, as against 'acceptable profit, is rampant in the world of commerce where undue advantage is taken of just about every customer who comes along. Traders must, of course, make a profit, preferably an honest profit, but the vast majority, or so it appears, much prefer to operate in rip-off mode if and when a trusting customer happens in. Take the simple matter of purchasing a tube light unit for example: One store charges Rs225 for the unit including light rod, another asks Rs260 and yet another one demands Rs310 and all stores are next door to each other and all, on close inspection, are selling fake 'branded goods and, after they have made their unholy profit, the sellers, arm in arm so to speak, head for prayers in their neighbourhood mosque. Whether their prayers are heard or not is beside the point, they might have performed good deeds which outweigh the bad on the scales of heavenly justice, yet their greed for monetary gain is still wrong. This greed for filthy lucre to hoard away or use to purchase luxury consumer goods lures people, of all classes and sects, to repeatedly, and increasingly blatantly, exploit their fellow human beings to the inth degree without any feelings of guilt at all. They may drop a coin in the hands of a beggar when passing but a large percentage of them also queue up in banks, in full view and without shame, to withdraw huge amounts of money just before obligatory zakat is imposed. This craven greed for money, 'dirty money when its gained through unfair, even dangerous, practices, has always been present in the world, including it is sad to say, in the Islamic world too and, as time rolls by, it becomes more and more predominant. One has to wonder, where will it all end? Is it remotely possible that, one bright morning on a God given day, traders will wake up, repent the error of their ways and begin to make amends? This is unlikely no matter how far into the future you can manage to stretch your imagination and no, there is no point in trying to justify profiteering by pointing out that some, not all, of these people rushed to help unfortunate victims of natural calamities such as earthquakes and floods as this still does not put their wrongness right unless, of course, the human misery caused by terrible disasters served to open their eyes to the error of their ways. Profiteering, food adulteration is exactly this, unfortunately seems to have become part and parcel of the Pakistani psyche and has polluted the holy month of Ramadan to morally unacceptable levels. It has, in fact, almost totally compromised everything, which true Islam stands for. One can, therefore, only pray that change and enlightenment will, eventually come. The writer is author of The Gun Tree: One Womans War (Oxford University Press, 2001) and lives in Bhurban. Email: zahrahnasir@hotmail.com