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Tea and sympathy

"You may call tea a luxury or basic need of both the ordinary and the important people of the country, the fact is the people are not ready to give up tea to save $500 million a year, the import bill. People worship tea"

In other words, Federal Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal has asked the whole nation to go for soft and hard and cold and hot actions to save every single penny through dropping a cup of tea a day.

It’s time for strong actions, not just tea and sympathy, I would like to remind the able minister.

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Tea is not just a beverage for you and me; it is a part of our daily life.

You are right, I am talking about Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal’s statement that the Pakistanis ought to reduce tea so that the country’s foreign exchange reserves are saved.

Though he said this during a media talk which was aired live, no reporter asked him that when tea is an imported commodity and a “luxury” item, the government should have put it on the banned luxury item lists.

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The statement became a top story for the international media too. CNN aired the news as “Pakistanis told to drink less tea as nation grapples with economic crisis”.

I am ready to cut my tea cups, but for how long? It is the tea that starts our day, provides us with a chance to meet friends and serves as a drink to cut the ice.

The minister has a visible deadline in his mind:

“Because the tea we import we [have to] borrow to import it,,, and until the country grows and produces its own tea, I would urge the nation to please, at least, cut down one cup of tea a day.”

To some extent, the minister is right that tea is among those items which consume our precious resources.

Can Pakistan grow tea to cut down tea import bills?

Well, people, better call them experts, say that yes and no. They say that Pakistan’s climate and vegetation are conducive to tea cultivation, but not a single good quality tonne has been grown so far.

You may call tea a luxury or basic need of both the ordinary and the important people of the country, the fact is the people are not ready to give up tea to save $500 million a year, the import bill. People worship tea.

A friend of mine sent me a meme: Life is like a cup of tea: to be filled to the brim, and enjoyed with friends.

Other than enjoying it with friends, what I see is, sipping tea, either made at home, or arranged from a roadside dhahba, lets you forget about life’s worries for a while, and gives a boost to mood and cravings. I do not intend to commercially market the beverage, but only want to emphasize that tea is a way of life, a necessary part of so many lives.

And it’s becoming a political issue as well.

When Imran Khan was the prime minister, we hear, he would not offer even a cup of tea to his visitors. And those few lucky people who were served tea, say the cup would be placed before them without its popular companions – cakes and cookies. It is very likely the incumbent government would start a war on tea and by and by, it may become a part of the news cycle that tea was not served at the cabinet meeting on the special directions of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

The minister dropped the tea bomb while discussing the economy. Pakistan is facing severe economic challenges for months, leading to an increase in the prices of food, gas and oil.

Jokes aside, whether we stop going for tea or not, Pakistan’s economic condition faces declining foreign currency reserves – $16.3 billion in February and now $8 billion in mid-June.

Let us start thinking about cutting down the consumption of everything which sends our precious money out of the country. Recently, our reporter Iftikhar Alam broke a story, which went viral on social media, that a political gathering at Zardari House was served with local bottled water. That should be appreciated. Appreciating someone’s act is not everybody’s cup of tea.

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