STORY: A crowd of frightened people fled a food distribution site in Peshawar, Pakistan on Saturday as gunshots rang out behind them -- one of several such incidents in recent weeks amid what officials said was the country's highest inflation ever recorded.
Police said officers resorted to using teargas and firing their weapons in the air to disperse the crowd, which the country’s food minister said had gotten “difficult for the government to control.”
At least 16 people, including five women and three children, have been killed in stampedes at flour distribution centers across the country.
The distribution sites have been set up to help ease the impact of soaring inflation, which has jumped to a record 35%.
Mohammad Shoaib, a retired factory worker who had come to get free flour in Lahore, says he cannot afford a bag of flour which has gone up to 1,160 rupees. He says his pension is 8,500 rupees and he has no other means of income.
The stampedes underscore people's desperation in the face of soaring costs, made worse by Pakistan's falling currency and a removal of subsidies agreed with the International Monetary Fund to unlock the latest tranche of its financial support packages.
A monthly economic outlook report issued by the finance ministry on Friday projected inflation would remain elevated.