Pakistan kicks off culture of boycott

Social ethics have played imperative part during the nation building of developed nations. Through literacy and culture, societies incorporate social values like truth, patience, discipline and tolerance in their lifestyle.

In subcontinent, after de-colonization, political elite acquired the right to govern big territories and conceived an army, a government and a bureaucratic system as a sufficient package to be called a respectable nation state. The limelight was taken away from literacy so as to keep the public wandering away from the concept of reasoning and questioning: questioning inflation, corruption, unemployment and similar system failures. This is why sometimes the British rule is dubbed superior in administration and financial transparency than the rule of their successors.

In Pakistan, the society although has divided itself into various sects – linguistic, regional and political, the way social evils such as indiscipline, bribery, dowry and intolerance to multicultural diversity have embedded in our system regardless of the strong ethic-rich religious bindings, has established our ‘zero displacement’ towards maturity as a nation. The absence of ethics has resulted into collective insensitivity of public towards each other as well as matters of society.

The culture of boycott traces its roots back in 19th century when individuals or groups started boycotting products/services for various reasons ranging from gas to commodities, petrol to security. Public built outrages through a collection of agitation tactics.

In Pakistan, agitation usually covers road blocks, looting/destroying of shops, tires ablaze, thrashing road signs and signals, vehicles and sometimes public. The misled hyper protestors actually destroy their own property and believe to have shown their power against the state.

In sensible societies, when laws don’t permit governments to take action, public pours out its anger through boycott.  How far boycotts remained successful in history is quiet debatable. Consumer behaviour experts have clashing views and believe that a boycott itself is dependent on some factors. Like, the thing, which is to be boycotted; does it really affect the daily routine or does it hold an alternative. Or how vulnerable is the product and whether public remains distant from certain product for a longer time span or not?

Some years back in USA, social groups demanded the boycott of British Petroleum for Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill in Gulf of Mexico which resulted in heavy devastation of marine atmosphere. The famous BOD movement started in 2005, called for boycott of Israeli products in light of its illegal settlement in Gaza valley and bombing on civilian areas. The boycott of Israeli imports especially by Europe jolted Israeli economy. During the peak of war in 2014, Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid warned that failed negotiations with Palestine could cost Israel 20 billion shekels (Israeli currency). The fall of Israeli companies’ share price and economic pressure indeed led to negotiations and saved numerous innocent lives.

When cell phone culture made its way into Pakistan, people started campaigning boycott of corporate giants like Coca Cola, Pepsi and western products for hatching a Jewish conspiracy or allegedly funding Israel. However, boycott couldn’t gain much importance and remained ineffective as there was no credible alternative for these products. What we see is that if a product has no alternative, it would be challenging to hurt it from boycott.

Presently in Pakistan, a social media outrage has gained momentum in which a three-day boycott of fruit has been called. In Ramazan, unfortunately as a social trend, commodities like fruits, vegetables go through an unjustified price hike and public, especially the middle-class, suffers. In Ramazan, the use of fruit is very popular so timeframe of this boycott is pivotal and well selected. Usually, fruits and veg prices are raised up to 300%. Government instead of devising a policy, tries counter through discounted “Ramazan Bazaar” but the quality and insufficiency of items, usually dislocates the purchasers from government initiatives.

In Pakistan, vegetable and fruit business does not require state law intervention. In this country, termed agricultural, farmers sell their product to fruit traders from whom the market vendors purchase veg/fruit while some traders sell it in vegetable markets under the umbrella of government price control committees. From these markets, street vendors and local shopkeepers buy it for selling in public areas and set profit margin on fire as no proper government department checks them. Local government officials barely check the price lists on shops systematically while the street and road vendors don’t come under the influence of local TMAs.

Some social media groups have taken stand against boycott and are sympathetic with the street and road vendors because they will directly feel the heat of this boycott whereas the fruit traders will go untouched.

This argument does not make sense as no law, ethics and morality standard gives the freedom to anyone including traders or street vendors for such sudden and unjustifiable hike even though the world is moving towards the free economy concept. Cashing the religious month seems totally unfair. Painting a fruit-seller who chooses to earn in respectable way with dark sympathetic strokes is pointless attempt to make the boycott ineffective.

The media outlets in their report are showing price drop of 40-60% due to campaign which clearly depicts the power of awareness social media has induced in the society. Irrespective of the range of down sale – it shows the sign of public agitation. This power should be used constructively and any attempt to popularize and glorify the boycott culture will inadvertently affect it. If we made this boycott a fashion to soothe our own social incapability, public will lose the interest and it would be unable to attain certain goals.

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