When eating out is off the table, Pakistanis get creative in kitchen

This representational photo shows different varieties of Pakistani food. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 25 March 2020

When eating out is off the table, Pakistanis get creative in kitchen

  • For some, cooking becomes therapy as preparing meals helps reduce stress
  • In Punjab and Sindh, popular food delivery apps have been temporarily suspended

RAWALPINDI: Pakistanis love to eat out, but as restaurants across the country have had to close in the face of the ongoing virus crisis, they are now taking accelerated cooking courses to have their three square meals a day.
While in other countries on coronavirus lockdown, food delivery companies have significantly scaled up services, health measures introduced in Pakistan put many of them on halt.
As in Punjab and Sindh provinces, popular apps such as Eat Mubarak and Food Panda have been temporarily suspended, food delivery has been replaced by recipe sharing through no-touch social media channels.
Irum Zahra of the Human Development Foundation has been sharing her remixes on pancakes from traditional to chocolate and fruit infused, “I barely had time to make tea at home before because of my work and now I am cooking three meals a day, so every morning I do pancake variations with what I have in the kitchen.”
“I have restarted cooking lessons with my mom,” Neha Ravail Khaliq, who works for the World Bank, told Arab News over Instagram. Not only has it been good for bonding, she said, but for the first time in a long time she has been able to prioritize health in her meals.
“In a way it’s good, it’s forced me to have things I haven’t in ages like green smoothies and turmeric tea. But also to indulge, we made tagliatelle with Bolognese the other day!”
To some cooking comes as therapy. Current fear and anxiety about the pandemic can be overwhelming. Making meals helps reduce stress.
For Hira Azmat of the British Council in Lahore, cooking reinforces her coping mechanism through the stress of the pandemic altering daily life and making the future uncertain. She told Arab News that initially all the cooking she has done was a “creative outlet, something useful to do for the family.” But now it is something else.
Singer and songwriter Saba Jaswal has also turned cooking. She found baking greatly eases some of the tension. “There’s all this time to self-discover now and I’ve always thought baking and cooking were calming but never had the time, it’s turning out pretty good for the mind and those taste buds if not the waist!”

Daily wagers say government’s virus relief package won’t cover minimum needs

Updated 30 March 2020

Daily wagers say government’s virus relief package won’t cover minimum needs

  • Assistance to reach 3 million workers — less than a half of the affected, according workers’ association
  • The support package is part of the government’s Rs1.2 trillion scheme to minimize the impacts of the pandemic

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government on Monday approved Rs17,500 ($106) monthly cash assistance for around 3 million daily wage workers who lost their jobs amid cutbacks and shutdowns over the coronavirus crisis. The amount may be insufficient for them to survive.

“Something is better than nothing in this critical time, but this amount (17,500 rupees) isn’t enough even for a small family of five members to get by, ” Zahoor Awan, secretary general of the Pakistan Workers’ Federation (PWF), told Arab News.

“A small family needs at least 50,000 rupees per month to fulfill all its expenses including house rent, food and utilities,” he said.

The Rs200 billion financial support package is part of the government’s Rs1.2 trillion fiscal stimulus scheme to minimize the adverse impacts of the disease outbreak on the country’s fragile economy.

“It was estimated that around 3 million workers will fall in this category and they will have to be paid a minimum wage of Rs17,500 ($106) per month,” the government’s Economic Coordination Committee said in a statement on Monday.
The government will disburse the money to workers through provincial labor departments.

“This is a substantial and major commitment from the government at this difficult time,” Khurram Husain, business analyst and editor at Dawn daily, told Arab News, adding that the labor departments will have to generate “authentic data” on the workers for the funds to be fairly distributed.

However, the very data on which ECC based its relief may be unreflective of the reality. 

While the ECC estimates that 3 million daily wage workers have been affected by the shutdown of commercial activity across the country, according to PWF’s Awan the number is at least 7 million.

He said the government’s package covers only the formal industrial sector. “What about those thousands working in small hotels, shops, self-employed, and others who aren’t registered with labor departments?” he said, adding that it is necessary for the government to broaden its definition of daily wage earners.

Ghulam Mustafa, a daily wager at a textile mill in Chakwal, said that prior to the business shutdown his monthly income was Rs26,000.

“It’s impossible to meet all the expenses with Rs17,500,” he told Arab News. “The government should waive off our utility bills along with this allowance.”