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Loans and debt

Most narrators talk about the stress and anxiety associated with borrowing money. For some, lack of work – exacerbated by rising prices – means they continually need to take out loans; for others it is often triggered by medical or wedding expenses.

Mircho is one of the few narrators who has stayed clear of debt. Several say that although their parents were poor, they survived without taking loans, whereas now most families faced with ill-health, or holding a wedding or funeral, incur costs that make staying free of debt almost impossible.

Allah Bux describes how fishermen have found themselves locked in debt to the traders who both buy their catch and lend them money: “we live by taking loans”.

Chhutta and Kishore present a different perspective and explain how loans have provided a crucial route out of absolute poverty. And Nazeer is one of several who emphasise that interest-free loans from the government would be the most effective way “to alleviate poverty”.

Khamiso’s story presents the view of a small-scale moneylender whose borrowers defaulted following prolonged drought, leaving him as indebted as his former customers.

Nasreen describes how the pressure to see all her daughters married led her to take out crippling loans, while Hodat mentions a local successful small loan scheme that she was unable to take advantage of owing to her husband’s fear of debt.


Loans and debt is a key theme of the Living with poverty: Pakistan oral testimony project.


Allah Bux: older generation

Basran: desperate times

Chhutta: migrant’s tale

Fatima: vulnerable lives

Hodat: diversifying business

Karim Bux: lacking support

Khamiso: looking back

Kishore: living prudently

Mircho: losing dignity

Nasreen: just surviving

Nazeer: high standards

Salma: independent spirit

Key themes

Introduction to the project

Loans and debt

Survival strategies

The cost of poverty

Environmental decline


Political representation


Insecurity and conflict


Food security and health