Islamabad: Nearly 60 million Pakistanis live below the poverty line, said a leading daily lamenting that "areas such as defence get the better of development".
An editorial in the Dawn Wednesday said a study on poverty has brought Pakistan face to face with a reality that it will find hard to accept: "Every third Pakistani is caught in the 'poor' bracket i.e. some 58.7 million out of a total population of 180 million subsist below the poverty line."
The daily called the figure daunting, "but they are much needed for planning, especially when the government appears too embarrassed to release statistics related to poverty".
The Sustainable Development Policy Institute, which carried out the economic-mapping exercise, has called for a policy to combat acute poverty.
"These are facts which are being kept under wraps at great peril to the country," it said.
The editorial said that quite clearly, "the dilemma as we know is yet to be overcome".
"Areas such as defence get the better of development; the more affluent are able to deny the less affluent in the name of sustaining themselves; and the small change that reaches the marginalised segments is never enough to pull them into the promised mainstream," it added.
"The formula that channels resources and attaches due importance to the underdeveloped is yet to be found. Worse, an earnest search for such a formula is yet to begin."
The daily went on to say that "development has proceeded in the only manner it could: the gap between the more privileged and the more backward has increased with time, even as successive governments have dangled 'special packages' in front of those with the greatest need".
"This reflects in social, political and, quite often, ethnic tensions, in revolts and in militancy," it noted.