EIDUL AZHA: THE ECONOMICS OF SACRIFICEArchive
“Be careful! Don’t step on the dung!” my guide warns me as I make my way through the cattle enclosures. Besides watching your step, a day at any of the markets for sacrificial animals is spent watching the four-legged creatures munching away on their assortment of fodder as you look for the best bargains among them.
Chashma, the white bull with black circles around both his eyes has been aptly named by its master, Rahim Bakhsh, and is up for sale at 250,000 rupees. A customer is haggling with Bakhsh to seal the deal at 200,000 ruppees but Bakhsh, who came to Karachi all the way from Rahim Yar Khan is shaking his head.
“The animal sure is beautiful. But who will be able to tell what it looked like after being turned into steak and kebabs,” says the customer, a young woman, checking out the other animals around her as she tries to focus on the present sale. She is accompanied by two young boys to assist her.
Buying an animal for Eidul Azha is as much about window shopping and spectacle as bargaining
Bakhsh tells her that he has more animals with him that are even more expensive than Chashma except for Baadal, a black bull munching away oblivious of becoming part of the conversation. “Baadal is for 220,000 rupees. Take Baadal if you like,” he offers.
But the woman turns her gaze to another and asks how much it is for. “Sooraj Mukhi is for sale at 400,000 rupees. Look at her pink nose, pink mouth. She is one of my most expensive animals,” he says.
The woman suddenly loses interest in the others and is again eyeing Chashma. “Look, Baba. I am going to go around and see if I can find anything better and cheaper. If not, I’ll come back to you. You think about bringing your prices down a little until then,” she says before walking off to another seller.
Bakhsh smiles. “Eidul Azha is still several days away. I haven’t sold a single animal as yet but I will not panic until the third day of Eid. My prices are fixed for now,” he says before returning his attention to feeding his animals.
Almost every mandi or market for sacrificial animals has a ‘miracle animal’ with the name of the Almighty or the Prophet (PBUH) quite prominent on the animal’s hide. Pappu, the bull, has ‘Allah’ written on one side and ‘Mohammad’ on the other. The owner Mohammad Naeem has come down from Dera Ghazi Khan with the miracle animal and 15 others. But he says Pappu is not really for sale. “He is only on display and for people to see and marvel at the glory of God,” says Naeem. “Still, if someone insists on buying him, we are also poor people with no one watching our backs. We will donate the money we make through the sale to a mosque or madressah,” he adds.
This year, the government has designated some eight locations for sacrificial animal markets in Karachi. There is the biggest one on the Super Highway followed by others at Ansoo Goth at Malir No 15, two at Landhi, one at Manghopir, one at Mawach Goth, Baldia Town, along with some in other areas such as Clifton and Defence Housing Authority with the approval from the Clifton Cantonment Board and Karachi Cantonment Board.
For those with bigger pockets, there are also camels. “Camel meat is a delicacy and an acquired taste,” says Mohammad Din, with several camels on sale in the market off the National Highway. The price of his camels ranges from 800,000 rupees to 1,000,000 rupees. Some camels are the usual colour, some are off-white and there are black ones too. And to attract customers some very talented barbers have created pretty designs on the camels’ hair with their razors and scissors. “See, you can decorate your goats, lambs, cows and buffaloes with henna. But what to do when the camel’s coat itself has hues similar to henna stains?” says Mohammad Din.
Apart from the beauty aspect, he says that a camel will yield around 700kg to 800kg meat. “Then you can also sacrifice camels on the fourth day of Eid,” he says.
Goats, sheep and lambs, of course, are the most common and affordable sacrificial animals costing in thousands. But there are the various species to set them apart in looks and prices. “The goats with long ears are supposed to have the best tasting mutton,” says Abdul Razzak, a buyer. “Let me check out their teeth,” he says while getting off his bike. “If it has two teeth, it means it is young and will have lean meat. It may cost 40,000 or 50,000 rupees. Four teeth, on the other hand, would mean that the animal is older with some unhealthy fat. But it will also be a bargaining point,” he adds.
Meanwhile, no one seems interested in Ashfaq Qureshi’s decorated sheep and lambs wearing beads and collars. “They are some 10,000 rupees cheaper than the goats but still people don’t seem too interested in them,” admits a dejected Qureshi. “But lamb meat cooked in its own fat or chakki tastes like nothing else,” the buyer points out hoping to make a sale.
This year, the government has designated some eight locations for sacrificial animal markets in Karachi. There is the biggest one on the Super Highway followed by others at Ansoo Goth at Malir No 15, two at Landhi, one at Manghopir, one at Mawach Goth, Baldia Town, along with some in other areas such as Clifton and Defence Housing Authority with approval from the Clifton Cantonment Board and Karachi Cantonment Board. Meanwhile, setting up a market just about anywhere has been banned by the Sindh Home Department under imposition of Section 144 as it contributes to traffic congestion and unhygienic conditions. But that doesn’t stop anyone from doing as they please.
Last year, Pakistanis spent over 425 billion rupees on sacrificial animals for Eidul Azha. According to a research, some 2,600,000 cows and bulls were purchased to reach a net total of 182 billion rupees. Goat sales, meanwhile, amounted to around 100 billion rupees. And some 800,000 lambs brought in 16 billion rupees more to the national economy, not to forget the camels of which around 3,000 were sold to reach a figure of around 300 million rupees. Transportation of animals to markets and then from there to people’s homes, too, amounted to five billion rupees while animal feed costs were somewhere near 3.75 billion rupees.
But these figures vary. According to Zahid Farooq of Urban Resource Centre, this is due to stealing of taxes at the toll gates. “In Karachi, for instance, the sacrificial animals are brought into the city from three points — the Super Highway, the National Highway and Hub River Road,” he says.
“And doing so, the trucks carrying these animals pass through the toll gates while not giving the correct number of animals in the trucks to steal tax. So if there are 100 goats in a truck, they would say there are 75. And who’s got the patience and energy to check each truck?” he explains.
Photos by Mohammad Ali / White star
The wirter is a member of staff.
She tweets @HasanShazia
Published in Dawn, EOS, August 27th, 2017