PAKISTAN – Newspaper hawkers’ ticket to eat

By Ibne Ahmad – The News (December 11, 2012)

“These people go to work every day and sell papers and when they get their commission that’s their ticket to eat,” Malik, a newsstand owner says

Hasan Ali, a newspaper hawker, is seen shouting daily at the traffic signal near Faizabad at the top of his voice “A world of news in a few bucks”. He keeps on repeating this phrase as long as cars stop there and hurriedly hops on to the roadside as the traffic signal goes green. He also does it again as people pass him on their way to work.

Another boy, Ali Reza, is peddling the newspapers from his spot on the corner of Faizabad bus terminal. Both Hasan Ali and Ali Reza are amongst the many Pindiites who sell newspapers on the roads in order to make a living.

Fawad Ahmad and his colleague Hamid Hussain, camp out on Moti Mehl and Sir Syed Chowk. Both get paid a fixed amount an hour for each of their four hours of labour every morning. They have been peddling papers for the last three months on their assigned spots. They are both needy and make commission off the number of papers they sell.

“These people go to work every day and sell papers and when they get their commission that’s their ticket to eat,” Malik, a newsstand owner says. Fawad and Hamid appreciate when buyers come and they appreciate when they sometimes give them the whole note and don’t wait for the change. After hours of street sales, these men sometimes only earn a petty amount. According to them, the buyers’ mood often has an effect on their sales. “When they are in a hurry, people don’t like to dig in their pockets for the change,” Fawad says. But the mood isn’t the only reason that affects sales. “Our pursuance sometimes results in good sales,” says Hamid.

Newspaper hawking is good for people. Street newspaper sales might appear to be a novelty upon first glance or while passing by, but for people like Azmat, it serves a purpose of not only providing some income, but also increased self-worth. It is their livelihood.

“This is good for people who are unemployed,” Azmat says and adds: “It gives them a chance to have something to do and to give them some income until they can find something better. It keeps them out of trouble.” “A lot of people appreciate us being out here. We’re not shaking a cup, we’re not begging for money. We’re selling papers. At least we’re doing something.”

Whether that day ever comes or not, you can find Waleed on his corner no matter what. “Rain, thundering, hailstones, Monday through Sunday, I’m out here,” he says.

“You have to come out here and get the job done. I’ve got to survive. I’ve got responsibilities.” After being laid off from the catering service Nawaz has held newspaper hawker job for three years now. He puts in a three-and-a-half-hours time every run of the mill morning, giving away hundreds of copies, before he clocks out.

He lives about a 10-minute walk from Mareer Hasan, which is where he works, but he prefers to go by bicycle. After he gets off there, he walks to a bundle of daily newspapers that have been left for him. At 5:16 a.m. he meets his first customers, Major Sadiq and his dog. They have a short chat about the latest news. At 5:20 a.m. he goes to a nearby residential area, and drops off a heap of papers.