Islamabad (AP): A minister in Pakistan’s newly elected government faced criticism Wednesday following his plea to the nation to drink less tea to help save on imports amid a deepening economic crisis.
Pakistan is among the world’s top tea importers, a hugely popular drink among both the rich and the poor in this country of 220 million people. The government has to spend about $600 million dollars from the central bank’s hard currency reserves for tea imports annually.
A Pakistani is believed to drink at least three cups of tea a day on average, the nation’s caffeinated drink of choice.
Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who took over in April after Imran Khan was ousted in a no-confidence vote in Parliament, has pledged to improve the ailing economy and meet conditions set by the International Monetary Fund in an effort to revive a $6 billion bailout package.
Still, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal’s appeal to drink less tea surprised many.
“I appeal to the people to reduce their tea drinking by one or two cups a day because we also borrow money for the tea, which is imported,’’ Iqbal said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Some have openly advised Iqbal on social media to resign.
“Yesterday Ahsan Iqbal asked us to consume less tea and tomorrow they may say eat less. Is it a solution?’’ asked Dil Sher, who owns a roadside tea stall on the outskirts of Islamabad.

By Munir Ahmed