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by AFP

Aamir Qureshi—AFP

P.M. House auctions off eight buffalos for austerity

The Prime Minister’s House milked its livestock reserves on Thursday as dozens gathered for a buffalo auction in the capital Islamabad, in the latest push for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s highly publicized austerity drive.

A total of eight buffalos were auctioned off for nearly Rs. 2.3 million ($19,000) at the prime minister’s residence, as Khan’s new administration aims to cut expenditure and increase revenue collection to boost Pakistan’s struggling economy.

“The auction was not just good. It was very, very good,” said government official Javaid Iqbal, who oversaw the sale.

An auctioneer shouted prices to a crowd carrying stacks of rupees in the residence’s backyard, where the shiny, black buffalos for sale were tied to nearby trees. The animals were obtained in 2014 by the government of ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, with supporters of the erstwhile leader flocking to the auction and paying several times the market price for a piece of history.

“I bought a buffalo for Rs. 300,000, which is three times higher than the market price. But I am happy because it’s a memory tied to my leader Nawaz Sharif,” said Malik Tayyib Nawaz.

Sharif—who was removed from office last year by the Supreme Court for alleged corruption—was freed from prison earlier this month after being jailed weeks ahead of July elections.

However, others at the auction complained of the high prices. “A common man like me cannot afford to buy them,” said Zameer Khan, who traveled to the event with the hope of netting a buffalo but left empty handed.

Khan was elected in July on promises to cut excessive government spending and build an Islamic welfare state in the impoverished South Asian nation. As part of the ongoing austerity drive, Pakistan has auctioned off dozens of luxury vehicles belonging to the Prime Minister’s House and also launched a crowd-funding campaign to build a dam in the country’s north.

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