Hundreds gathered for the handouts at one of several distribution points set up by the government during Ramadan
People leave after collecting free bags of flour from a government distribution point in Multan on March 22 following an announcement by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to provide free flour to people in need ahead of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan. (Photo: AFP)
One person was killed and eight others injured during a stampede for free flour in inflation-wracked Pakistan on Thursday, the first day of the holy month of Ramadan.
The price of basic food items has rocketed in recent months, with inflation at a nearly 50-year-high as the country grapples with a balance of payments crisis that has seen it forced back into negotiations with the International Monetary Fund.
"Nine people were trampled and were taken to hospital where one person died," said Muhammad Arif, police chief for Charsadda in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where the incident happened.
Arif said hundreds of people gathered at the local market for the handouts, one of hundreds of distribution points set up by the government during Ramadan.
Millions of low-income families across the country are registered under the scheme.
In a nearby district, a man died and four others were injured when a wall they were sitting on collapsed as crowds amassed for free flour.
Authorities told AFP it was not clear why the wall collapsed.
Pakistan's finances have been wrecked by years of financial mismanagement and political instability -- a situation exacerbated by a global energy crisis and devastating floods that left a third of the country under water last year.
The South Asian nation is deeply in debt and needs to introduce tough tax and utility price increases to unlock another tranche of a $6.5 billion IMF bail-out and avoid defaulting.
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