The holy month of Ramzan, which started this week, is an opportunity for Muslims to test their faith, but for Pakistani Muslims this year's test will be the hardest in recent memory.
During Ramzan Muslims are required to abstain from drinking and eating from dawn to sunset. The Muslim year follows a lunar calendar and is shorter than the calendar year. The result is that Ramzan migrates backward by 10 days or so each year, and this year it falls squarely on the punishing Pakistani summer.
"If I stay at home it's ok, but if I go outside it's too hot," said Habib Allahdad, 42, a resident. Pakistani faithful also have to contend with two chronic problems that are particularly acute at this time of year: soaring food prices that make the traditional Ramzan evening meal costly and long power outages prevent many from finding relief from the heat.
Hot and dry weather only exacerbates the gap as the water level of dams falls and the usage of electric appliances such as fans and air conditioners shoots up. The consequence is that the whole country is subject to blackouts of various durations. While Islamabad experiences only two to three hours of power cuts a day, rural owns may face up to 18 hours a day without power.
Zulfiqar Ali Ghouri said his Rawalpindi neighborhood suffers eight to 10 hours of power cuts daily. "Many people can't sleep properly at night, so they can't work properly," he said.
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