Karachi YouTuber's discount fruit stall keeps Ramadan prices down

Mustafa Hanif's shop helps some of Pakistan's poorest during the holy month

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It's mid-afternoon, with hours to go before iftar, but a queue has already formed at a fruit stall in Karachi's Jail Chowrangi road.

People clutch tokens given to them by volunteers as they wait to buy a bag of fruit at a hugely discounted price.

As in many Muslim nations, Pakistan faces inflation during the month of Ramadan. Prices of essential items and fruits skyrocket, leaving people who are already grinding in the mill of poverty without means to feed their families except by charity,

At the plucky little stall in Pakistan's largest city, a kilogram bag of fruit containing a sweet melon, three apples and six bananas is sold for only 10 rupees and a 2kg bag for 20 rupees ($0.07), a colossal discount compared to the typical price of about 500 rupees for a kilo ($1.76).

Behind the charitable enterprise is an unexpected source.

Using fame for good

Mustafa Hanif is a YouTuber who rose to fame during the Covid-19 pandemic. He reached the dizzying height of over 800,000 followers after viewers spotted his likeness to a character in Turkish drama Dirilis Ertugrul.

He has run the store every Ramadan for three years, and this year has helped about 500 families. As his following grows, more people donate food and cash to the enterprise.

“In this era of inflation, a common man can only wish for fruit but cannot buy them, that's why we have started this series,” Mr Hanif told The National as he guided volunteers on packing bags.

Shafiq Ali, 70, waits patiently to make his purchase. His earnings as a daily wage worker barely cover two meals a day.

“Everyone's heart is to take good things for their family and children in this blessed month, but it is not possible in today's inflation, he said. “But with the help of this young man, it is now possible, which gives us peace of mind in Ramadan.”

As he carries his bag of goods away from the stall, schoolteacher Ubaid Farooqi said he supported Mr Hanif's efforts, but the government should control traders' profiteering during Ramadan.

“Pakistan is a unique country where prices of fruit and daily use items always turn sky-high in the month of Ramadan, and the government machinery and administration always fail to control the artificial price hike despite the fact the district administrations constitute price control committees every year,” he said.

Desperation

It wasn't always as calm as the scene might suggest.

The day after the stall opened, it was set upon by thieves, who stole the stock and vandalised the tent. Mr Hanif said the only way to stop this occurring again was to make it clear that the shop would be functioning throughout Ramadan.

“We should keep asking people to wait patiently for their turn and tell them that this is not the first time fruit is being given at Rs10 per kg, we explained to many people that it is for you people, but it was very sad to see such lack of discipline,” said Mr Hanif.

“People felt it necessary to tear down the tent for a fruit bag, so we didn't stop the work and set up the stall again the next day.”

Now police patrol the area to keep events calm. he says.

Updated: April 03, 2023, 10:58 AM