Indian paan still a major draw in Pak
The country has millions of paan addicts who savour it after each meal. According to rough estimates, an average Pakistani consumes 10-15 paans a day.india Updated: May 22, 2006 13:22 IST
Thirty-five years after being deprived of paan by the bitter separation from Bangladesh, Pakistan says it grows enough of its own juicy betel leaf. But aficionados still have a special place for the Indian variety in their hearts.
The country has millions of paan addicts who savour it after each meal. According to rough estimates, an average Pakistani consumes 10-15 paans a day.
Earlier, Pakistan got its supplies from its then east wing (present day Bangladesh) and its leaders abhorred importing it from India since they considered India responsible for the country's separation from Bangladesh.
"We have spat away that habit," was the self-righteous response of a Pakistani, if offered a paan in the 1970s.
However, that is a matter of the forgotten past. Pakistan now not only imports paan from Bangladesh and India, but also from Sri Lanka and Thailand. These imports continue even though enough betel leaf is grown in coastal areas of the Sindh province, says Daily Times newspaper.
Nostalgia and preference favour the Indian leaf, though. "Normally, customers demand Indian betel leaves because of their taste, but traders circumvent this bias by parading Pakistani paan as the Indian stuff."
"We lie only to satisfy our customers because we cannot offer them Indian paan at rates we normally charge for Pakistani paan," says Farooq, a wholesale dealer of betel leaf at Karachi's Jodia Bazaar.
"Local paan is the spitting image of the imported stuff," the newspaper says about the wholesale market in Karachi where the leaf is sold in baskets with markings of the countries it is imported from.
There is a big difference in the prices of local and imported paan, simply because a heavy customs duty is levied on imports.
The importer also has to pay a 10 percent sales tax and five percent income tax. Local paan costs Rs.100 to Rs.300 per kg while imported paan sells for Rs.450 to Rs.700 per kg.
The business in Karachi is managed mostly by Memon traders whose peers migrated from western India when Pakistan was created in 1947.