Jun 042008

It is time someone constructs a suicide index. After all, if the US and the entire western world can be so fixated on developing a sophisticated terrorism index what is so wrong with conceiving of a suicide index?

Agonised after reading daily reports about suicides in Pakistan I have developed a weird habit of looking for correlations between seemingly unrelated things. For example, I have been looking for the movement of Karachi stock indices in relation to the number of people committing suicide in Pakistan.

Other than the last few weeks, over some period I have noticed that the stock indices and suicides were simultaneously going up. I think it is time someone constructs a suicide index. After all, if the US and the entire western world can be so fixated on developing a sophisticated terrorism index what is so wrong with conceiving of a suicide index?

I have been wondering if there is a correlation between the yet-to-be-constructed suicide index and the stock index. And, if so, what it would be.

During the entire Shaukat Aziz era, as stocks rose, unfortunately so did the numbers of suicide: There were ten suicides in Punjab in one day; seven of them were females and three males. The stated reasons for the suicides varied from economic deprivation to forced marriages.

Most of the victims were belonged to the lower middle class. The common denominator for all the cases was economic hardship and related social backwardness: the chances of forced marriages or taking one’s life due to emotional distress are present but rare in prosperous families.

My odd way of looking at the relationship between stock and suicide indices may have been prompted by our ex-Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. If someone would have asked him about why people were committing suicides at such a high rate he would have certainly told the media that they should look at the stock market which has been leaping forward under his economic stewardship.

He may have alleged a media conspiracy to highlight the suicides and downplay the stock indexes. Or he may have said that people commit suicide due to personal failures; clearly the stock indices indicate that the people of Pakistan are enjoying the fruits of prosperity.

If one would have put the same painful question to Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, he would have been instantly provoked and given a lecture to the media. He would have argued that the media should look at the foreign currency reserves which have risen to thirteen billion dollars from under a billion under his able leadership. He would have claimed, with strong conviction, that the country is moving towards better times and anyone arguing otherwise was undermining national interests.

Both Shaukat Aziz and Pervez Musharraf may be right and the problem may have been due to information gaps. The people committing suicide come from a class that never chanced upon the information about rising stock indices or the increasing levels of foreign currency reserves which are presumably precursor of trickling-down prosperity.

Maybe Musharraf and Aziz should have used some of the funds they spent on their numerous foreign tours, to publicise the roaring stock market and piling up of foreign currency reserves. It is possible that some of the potential victims may have bought their arguments and taken some more time to give up on their life

If the new PPP-led government intends to claim prosperity in the Musharraf-Aziz style, they should hire a few thousand ‘dhandoorchis’ (drummer publicists) who can go into down-trodden areas and inform the hungry and unemployed about their own “change-the-system” programmes.

Maybe they should put less emphasis on foreign currency reserves because by the time their drummers reach the far flung places the reserves may have dwindled significantly due to the rising trade deficit. On second thoughts, they should not bother about such an eventuality because the potential victims of suicide may never find out the truth about these things.

I am afraid the drummers may be at great risk after a while. People, with empty stomachs and no hope may not believe in the ‘trickle-down’ noise, and the drummers may be burned alive as was done to the Karachiite robbers.

If the hungry are informed of the rise in GDP despite the load shedding and sky-rocketing prices, they may start suspecting that the so-called economic growth is continuing because they are getting poorer every day. They may conclude that the entire national wealth is being grabbed by a few who play the stocks and other markets.

They will not be far from the truth. Otherwise, how is it possible that over the last few years the stock market and the rate of suicide have been moving up at the same time? Someone must construct an index that can show the number of people committing suicides when stock market rises by a hundred points or GDP goes up by a certain percentage.

The writer can be reached at manzurejaz@yahoo.com

Source: Daily Times, 4/6/2008

 Posted by at 9:14 am

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