Wheat procurement in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa

Direct wheat procurement

By Tahir Ali

(DAWN, Monday, 03 May, 2010)

THE delayed and lacklustre wheat procurement drive by Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa has left growers at the mercy of middlemen/wheat traders forcing them to sell their produce at rates lower than the procurement price of Rs950/40kg.

Farmers complain that wheat prices have declined in recent days and growers prefer to sell their commodity at public procurement centres. They want the government to make vigorous effort to purchase wheat directly from growers.

Haji Niamat Shah, senior vice-president of the Anjuman-e-Kashtkaran, KPK, was surprised that despite reduced prospects for a bumper wheat crop that should have triggered a price-hike, the commodity price was falling. “The lack of government’s enthusiasm to procure wheat this year is very troubling. It will expose farmers to private profiteers, deprive them of a fair price and discourage them from cultivating wheat the next year,” he said.

Officials said the government had a strategy to purchase the entire marketable surplus of quality wheat from farmers. “To meet the 0.3 million tons procurement target, the provincial government has initially ordered for one million gunny bags as it is unlikely to meet the target for various reasons,” said an official.“Reluctance of farmers to sell their crop, shortage of public procurement centres and lack of storage facilities generally hamper government attempts to meet annual wheat procurement targets,” he added.

Basher Badshah, a wheat grower, said smuggling to Afghanistan would have to be stopped and the procurement/payment process to be facilitated, if the government wanted to procure sufficient wheat.

Last year too, it was the same target but only 0.09 million tons of wheat was procured.

The official said 0.3 million metric tons of wheat at a cost of about Rs7.1 billion will be directly procured from the cultivators this year. “The Khyber Bank and the First Women Bank Limited have agreed to lend Rs3bn and Rs2bn at KBOR +two per cent to finance the procurement drive. Rest of the money will be provided by the account of the provincial food department or if needed, will be obtained from banks.

“This direct procurement will help save about Rs1.8 billion. We had saved Rs540million last year by purchasing around 90,000 tons directly from farmers. This saving will ultimately benefit the end-consumers,” the official added.

Due to lower production and procurement, the province is dependent for over 3/4th of its annual wheat requirements of over three million tons on Passco, Punjab government or imports.

This insufficient production is a financial burden on the provincial exchequer on purchase, transportation and subsidy of wheat. Total annual wheat procurement of around 2.5 million tons for the year will cost about Rs5.9 billion while the incidentals alone for it would be around Rs1.6 billion, official documents reveal.

In the financial year 2008-09, the province had incurred a subsidy of over Rs10 billion with Rs2.6 billion of subsidy on indigenous and Rs7.7 billion of subsidy on imported wheat.

“The province should grow more food, for which, it would have to increase wheat acreage, develop high-yielding seeds and mechanise agriculture. The land under wheat is around one fifth of the total cultivable land,” said Manzoor Ahmad, a farmer.

According to Shah Zeb Khan, another farmer, there should be more procurement centres. “The procurement mechanism should be made easy. If possible, farmers should be approached for wheat deals. Farmers’ bodies should be involved in the process,” he said.

Another farmer said many preferred to sell their produce to private buyers for easy and swift payments though they had to sell it at four to five per cent lower rates. He alleged that the food department purchased wheat mainly from these middlemen.

Inadequate storage capacity is also likely to hamper procurement. The food department has a storage capacity of about 0.38 million tons which is less than the required.

“Modern silos can reduce dependence on gunny bags because grains can be stored in bulk quantity. The government must construct modern silos and build godowns to augment existing storage capacity,” said Ahmad.

Case for a uniform curriculum

Evolve a single system of education

TAHIR Ali

Business Recorder (May 22 2010):

The curricula of almost all kinds of schools vary. Wide disparity is seen in the system of examination and school calendar being followed by each network of schools that educates and evaluates its students in its own peculiar way. The class system of education has sharply divided the nation. It’s virtually impossible to think and hope of national cohesion and development if this situation persists. The national divide will exacerbate if the class system in education is not abolished in times to come.

All these schools promote distinct cultures and inculcate different habits and manners in their students. Students pumped into society with their divergent outlooks are sources of disarray in the country and our country is increasingly becoming a split-society with each passing day.

In an interview with this writer, Dr Mohammad Farooq Khan, a well-known scholar and social analyst, said, “We are amongst the least literate nations in the world. We have 40% literacy rate but that too is questionable by world standard. Education has never been in our priority list. No uniform system of education could be developed as yet. The country as a result has been divided in water-tight compartments.” Indeed it is.

So what should be done to correct the situation?

Curriculum, according to an expert, is all learning, which is planned and guided by school, whether carried on in groups or individually and whether inside or outside the school. It is the path through which a nation tries to achieve its educational objectives. It is rightly regarded as the heart of educational process as it provides direction and rationality to the educational endeavours. Curriculum must be planned and implemented in a way that ensures the harmonious and comprehensive development of students and society. It must reflect and cater to the philosophical, psychological, social and economic realities and needs of the time and society. It should be updated and made relevant to the needs and demands of modern age; to cope with the world of work; it should be more student-oriented than being teacher-centred; it should be more research-oriented; and more practical than being theoretical as at present.

Every society, state and nation develop a particular type of curriculum for its educational system that is best suited to its needs and ideology of life. The curricula of an agrarian and industrial society invariably differ. So do those of the communist and capitalist ones as well as of secular and religious societies.

Pakistan, faced with problems created by regional, sectarian, extremist and linguistic tendencies, must introduce a curriculum that could strengthen national cohesion, promote moderation and modernisation and inculcate the spirit of tolerance in the future generation of Pakistan.

Learning from others

We should learn from the experiences of the other countries. Developed countries around the world have established uniform system of education. USA and Britain have done the same and reached to new heights.

In the Republic of Korea, there is a strongly prescribed national curriculum and all its details are determined by the Ministry of Education (MOE). In Japan too, the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture prescribes guidelines for curriculum and authorises textbooks in elementary and secondary schools. Throughout the country, the school year begins in April and ends the following march.

Malaysia too has evolved a common curriculum and common system of education. All schools, whether private or public, have to abide by the contents and curriculum approved by the MOE. All of them operate on semester system and the school calendar begins simultaneously throughout Malaysia in the first week of December.

In Sri Lanka too, there is a common national curriculum at-least from class 1 to 11 and the school year lasts from January to December in the entire island.

Remove discrepancies

So, there is a dire need to remove the discrepancy between the curricula of the religious and mainstream educational system. There should be a mandatory uniform national curriculum from class one to twelve.

At the intermediate level, all the students in the country should take a federal examination on the pattern of developed countries. Preferably, this examination should be conducted by reputable private institutions to ensure fairness, transparency and reliability and to minimise the chances of malpractices in them.

Free education

Equal opportunities of quality education should be made available to all the sons of the soil. For this purpose, education should be made free and compulsory.

Combine the two streams

Religious seminaries should be included in the mainstream educational network. For this purpose, a spirit of give and take is required on part of both the government and management of Madaris. After having F.A/F.Sc. from institutions based on national curriculum, a student, if she/he so desires, may seek admission in the modern seminaries for religious education and after completion of five years of education there, he should be given a bachelor degree. He may register for Ph.D for specialisation in any religious branch afterwards. It is hoped that through this system we will produce competent religious scholars well versed with Islamic teachings and modern problems.

Specialised education

In place of the present B.A / B.Sc, a new scheme of four years of specialised education should be started after the intermediate for all other branches and subjects on the pattern of medical and engineering courses. This new mechanism will ultimately abolish the obsolete and useless BA / BSc levels to the great advantage of the nation. Science subjects should be taught in English from day one. Their syllabi should be exactly the same as being taught in the developed countries. The curriculum should be goal-specific – we should teach doctors, engineers and other specialists about their own fields rather than making them jack of all.

Language

English should be made medium of instruction from day one. Colleges should have PhD faculty. University professors should be limited to research endeavours.

University as research centres

Universities should be research centres only and must never be allowed to conduct graduate or post graduate examinations. Their syllabi should be exactly the same as being taught in the developed countries. Colleges should have PhD faculty. University professors should be limited to research endeavours.

Teachers

Teachers are the soul of the educational system. The success of educational endeavours is dependent upon their commitment and hard work. Therefore they need better remuneration. They should be given special packages. I think post-graduate primary teachers deserve better remuneration and should be given grade seventeen as against the present grades 7 to 12. They should be offered refresher courses.

Less religious contents

Too much religious contents should be removed from the curriculum. It should be goal-specific –we should teach doctors, engineers and other specialists about their own fields rather than making religious scholars of them.

Unaffordable Fertiliser prices

Unaffordable fertiliser prices
By Tahir Ali
DAWN, Monday, 19 Apr, 2010

THE prices of fertiliser have gone up in the market with the arrival of Kharif season in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Growers say that surge in prices of fertiliser, an important input in farm production, has become unaffordable for small cultivators.

They fear that its consumption in cultivation may drop considerably hampering the per acre crop yield. To avoid the situation, they have demanded sufficient supply of fertilisers at lower rates through an improved delivery system.

Abdur Rahim Khan, general secretary of the Sarhad Chamber of Agriculture (SCA), said farmers in the province were not getting fertilisers at subsidised rates.

“The government gives a subsidy of over Rs750/50kg on imported and over Rs300 on locally manufactured urea. The farmers complain that they are not getting any benefit. Instead, the commodity is being sold at much higher rates in the market. If the farmers do not get any benefit from the subsidy, then of what use it is,” he asked?

“Though there is no shortage of fertiliser in the market, the prices have gone up enormously during the last three months. Majority of the farmers are subsistence farmers who have no money to purchase expensive fertilisers. If the government does not intervene immediately, it may badly impact the sugarcane, maize and other Kharif crops, fruits and vegetables and bring down per hectare yield as well as result in under cultivation of land,” he asserted.

The consumption of fertilisers is determined by soil, water availability, price trends and supply position. But the price issue usually is the main factor. “The prices of urea has jumped from Rs730 to Rs840 per bag, DAP from Rs1,900 to over Rs2,600 while price of Zarkhez has gone up from Rs1,900 to Rs2,200 over the past three months,” Khan added.

According to the National Fertiliser Development Corporation, the monthly use of urea country-wide saw 8.8, 18.1 and 20.5 per cent decline from January to March as compared to the same period last year. The off-take of DAP dropped by 39.2 and 17.2 per cent in February and March as compared to previous Rabi season. Figures for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are not available but sources say the situation may have been even worse for the province.

Farmers’ awareness campaigns are not needed on the issue. “We know the importance of fertilisers. What we need is smooth, timely and cheaper availability of the commodity at the required time. Establishment of village agricultural centre, on the pattern of utility stores where all types of agricultural inputs are available to farmers, could solve the fertiliser supply problem,” said a farmer.

He said the government should try to improve the distribution mechanism. “For this, it should closely work with farmers’ representatives and bodies. The private fertiliser companies should ensure a strict supervision of their dealer network. This, of course, will also requires that agencies and dealers should be provided enough stock of the commodity,” he added.

A marketing department official of a fertiliser company said that there were no official or controlled prices for fertilisers as it was a de-regulated industry.

“Domestic production of urea is less than the demand. Therefore, it is imported and sold by the government itself through the National Fertiliser Marketing Limited (NFML). In case of delay in imports by the government, shortages may occur, resulting in higher rates in the market,” he added.

Regarding concerns that dealers are minting money by selling fertilisers at exhorbitant rates, he said the dealers were being monitored regularly and directed to sell products at company’s prescribed rates. “Any major irregularity or identification of any such an instance, results in strict action against the dealer which may lead to termination of his dealership. However, better planning and imports at right time by the government will ensure availability of urea at reasonable prices,” he said.

In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the total off-take of urea and DAP for the coming Kharif season is estimated at 180,000 tons and 150,000 tons respectively. Federal minister for industries had told the Senate that the NFML supplied 41,956 metric tons of urea to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa during September, 2008 to February, 2010. He said the body did not supply urea stocks to any area of FATA directly. However, he said, the NFML had 22 dealers in the province (in June 2003, there were 211 such dealers in the province).

The government has deregulated fertiliser imports and its prices. But it needs to revive provincial quotas, restore provincial supply organisations in the public sector. The general sales tax on all fertiliser products will have to be waived off.

The NFML should also open bulk stores in central and southern parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa like those in Punjab and Sindh. This would facilitate the distribution system. It should also increase its coverage to more areas and assign dealership in other districts and Fata.

The federal government had decided to offer the commodity to farmers through farm services centres but limited membership, insufficient outlets and lack of money with the bodies killed the initiative in the bud. To improve distribution of fertilisers, the bodies need to have more membership and more funds,” argued a farmer from Charsadda.

In areas where there are no farm services centres, district offices of the agriculture department should serve as provisional centres for fertilizers sales. Direct sales of the commodity to farmers have also been exploited by influentials. To check black-marketing and smuggling of fertilisers, daily reporting of quantity details to the district coordination officers should be ensured.

targeting autarky in wheat seeds

Targeting autarky in wheat seeds
By Tahir Ali
(Dawn Monday, 26 Apr, 2010)
OFFICIALS of the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa Agriculture Department are optimistic that the province will become self-sufficient in the production of wheat seeds by end of this year.

“If sufficient funds, staff and strong organisational backup are provided, the province may even become exporter of wheat and maize seeds from next year,” said Mohammad Ismail Jan, director seeds, provincial agricultural development fund.

Self-sufficiency in wheat seed production has been a long cherished dream of successive provincial governments but it is now being vigorously targeted. “We have close liaison with the farmers for providing high-yielding seeds to them,” he added.

“The annual wheat seed requirement of the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa (KhP) stands at around 8000 metric tons. This year seed production is expected to be over 15,000MT (9500MT by the public sector and the rest by the private sector). The province could double the yield if sufficient funds, staff and a strong institutional backup are ensured. This could help earn billions of rupees for the cash-strapped province,” he said.

Normally, the KhP had suffered shortage of the essential commodity and farmers got their seeds on inflated cost.

“Last year seed crops were sown on around 9000 acres in the public sector but a sizeable quantity of the produce was discarded for being of low quality. The procured seed was around 5000MT as against 3000MT the preceding year. This year area under seed crops has come down to around 6,000 acres but the good quality seed and better climatic conditions in the irrigated areas would make up the deficiency,” the official hopes.

Seeds are of three varieties –the pre-basic, basic and certified. Pre-basic is the best quality seed produced in agricultural research farms. It is provided to the agricultural extension department for cultivation in its six farms. This basic seed is sold to potential progressive farmers for cultivation.

For maize crop, the best ever seed hybrid varieties of Karamat and Babar have been introduced. “We have also started a programme for hybrid vegetable varieties but it is in the formative phase,” the official said.

As regards wheat crop, it is regularly monitored and the seeds certified by the federal seeds certification and registration department (FSC&RD). It is procured and sold to farmers in the province at Rs1700/50kg. The commodity is provided through seed depots and farm services centres. The officials of agriculture department are responsible for its marketing and distribution.

“The agriculture research is designed to develop new varieties of wheat that are best suited to the agro-climatic conditions of different areas in the province. For irrigated lands, the best wheat seed is Sahar, Pirsabaq 2005 and Nepa Batoor. For rain-fed areas, Tatara, Zam 04, PS 2005, Hasham 08, Dera 98 and Gomal 08 are the best quality seeds, the official added.

“These locally developed wheat seeds are high-yielding varieties and their per acre yield ranges between 1500-1600kg. It is better than the national average yield of 2,600kg per hectare. If the seed yield gets doubled in future then by bringing more land under wheat and maize cultivation, autarky for the province could be ensured. Also think of the financial output of this yield on that basis for the province. It will be in billions of rupees,” another official argued.

At present, there are bulk seed stores in only four districts of the province for keeping seeds. More bulk stores need to be built in other districts and the tribal areas. The storage capacity of the existing bulk stores should also be increased.

The seed processing capacity needs to be increased because of growing demand. There are only four seeds processing plants with limited capacity. More state of the art processing plants should be opened in all the districts.

At present, more than 500 national and five multinational companies are registered and allowed to market seeds. But strengthening the public sector seeds production capacity is required to stabilise market prices.

“One farmer should be given the responsibility of seed production of only one variety of crop and incentives to progressive farmers should be announced. Seeds for hilly and cool areas should also be developed. Seeds testing labs should be ensured at district level or at least divisional level to ensure quality seeds,” said a grower.

The government should gradually reduce dependence on imported seeds by developing and improving production of local seeds.

Khalid Mir, a multinational official, said, “the main issue in seed business is the absence of laws governing breeders’ rights. This is the first issue the government should tackle,” he said.

“Accredited seed laboratories both in private sector and public sectors should be set up. Private companies need to be encouraged to introduce new seed varieties that could boost productivity,” he added.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: opportunities and challenges

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: opportunities and challenges

By Tahir Ali

(The News 03-05-10)

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is one of the poorest and most backward provinces of the country. There is general belief that this province should go for its own comparative advantages instead of waiting for others to help it out. Any development strategy, experts point out, should be prepared in the light of major challenges, constraints and opportunities of the provincial economy.

The reasons for its less developed economy are many. The main resource-generating sectors of its economy have been badly affected by the negative effects of terrorism inside and outside its borders. There is a sluggish economic growth. Natural disinclination of local and foreign entrepreneurs to invest in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa due to growing insecurity and the inflow of millions of refugees has harmed its prospects. Sales, investment, and credit-transactions have decreased. Factories are either mostly closed or have reduced their outputs. The increased joblessness has caused a surge in poverty.

Prime Minister Gilani unveiled a package for the insurgency-hit province and tribal belt which was praised but was, literally speaking, a drop in the ocean.

The province possesses over 70,000 mega watt potential for hydro-power generation, as per Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) figures but it could not be utilised thus far.

As there is no freight equalisation in Pakistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s long distance from seaports makes its products less competitive and costlier due to high transport costs. The provincial growth strategy should focus on production of products that can be made from local raw materials like marble, furniture and gemstones.

The province often faces an economic crunch and 93 per cent of its revenue needs are dependant on federal transfers. The provincial GDP is almost $16 billion. However, the informal economy of the province is believed to be three times bigger than the formal economy.

The trade terms between the province and Afghanistan are unfavourable. Smuggling has been on the rise. The parallel economy having its roots in the Afghan transit trade is depriving the fund-deficient province of billions.

Joblessness is on the increase in the province. Many of the erstwhile industrial zones are wearing a deserted look as industries have been transferred to other provinces. Due to the law and order situation, rather than concentrating on developmental expenditures the province is overwhelmed by security related issues.

The province has a bulky and cheap workforce available, which can be an asset. But the workforce mostly comprises of illiterate and unskilled persons and therefore results in low productivity. A huge number of them work overseas, but remittances are also considerably lower as most of them work on low-paid unskilled jobs. Around 82 per cent of the youth are either unemployed, under employed or self employed. High literacy ratio and skill training centres can tackle the problem.

Furthermore, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has not been provided its constitutional right of net hydel profit. According to financial experts, Wapda owes around Rs700 billion to the province as per estimates. The arbitration tribunal head had fixed the amount at Rs110 billion, but the province is yet to get its due, despite repeated promises.

The agriculture sector has also been neglected. Land under cultivation and yield per hectare in the province are less than the national average.

What needs to be done?

As the province is expected to get huge sums of money in the near future, the ANP-led provincial government should chalk out a detailed development strategy to revitalise the province’s economy. Some suggestions are made below:

(1) To get the province out of its current economic turmoil, development programs are vital. Importance of a clear vision, sustained growth strategy and political will cannot be overemphasised.

(2) A proactive public-private relationship and robust private sector’s role is a must.

(3) There are plenty of commercial lands available in several major cities across the province, which can be better utilised by the private sector.

(4) To ensure industrial growth, the provincial government should build as many hydro-power generation units as possible.

(5) Investment in technical and higher education is the key to development.

(6) Subsidised electricity and gas facilities for industrial units are the need of the hour.

(7)The province should be authorised to enter into trade pacts with it neighbours.

(8) The provincial government should be provided with enhanced inflows for handling the ever increasing security expenditures.

(9) The province should have labour and energy intensive industries. Value addition in all, especially the mineral and furniture sectors will do wonders for the province.

(10)Advanced technology and infrastructure development are needed.

(11) A self support fund should be opened, and locals and expatriates should be asked to contribute in it. The funds should be used for retiring the provincial debts, start productive projects and for infrastructure development.

Historical analysis of extremism in Swat

Historical analysis of extremism in Swat or

Why Swatis support extremists

By Tahir Ali

(The News 2709-09)

Even though history regarded them as a nation that is inclined towards the mullah, the face of Swat and MD is changing fast

In his book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force, Sir Winston S Churchill wrote, “Perhaps half the tribesmen who attacked the Malakand had thought that the soldiers there were the only troops that the Sarkar possessed. ‘Kill these,’ they had said, ‘and all is done.’…These ignorant tribesmen had no conception of the sensitiveness of modern civilisation, which thrills and quivers in every part of its vast and complex system at the slightest touch.”

Churchill said that as entire Swat had been involved and around 12,000 armed men followed the “Mad Mullah, it was decided to mobilise a 3rd and Reserve Brigade.”

As a result, “The fearful losses which the enemy had sustained had made an appreciable diminution, not of an army, but of a population. For days their bodies lay scattered about. In the standing crops, in the ruins of villages, and among the rocks, festering bodies lay in the blazing sun, filling the valley with a dreadful smell. To devour these, great numbers of vultures quickly assembled and disputed the abundant prey with the odious lizards.

“The punishment that the tribesmen of the Swat Valley had received had broken the spirit of many, and several deputations came to make their submission. The Lower Swatis surrendered unconditionally, and were allowed to return to their villages. Of this permission they at once availed themselves, and their figures could be seen moving about their ruined homes and endeavouring to repair the damage. Others sat by the roadside and watched in sullen despair the steady accumulation of troops in their valley, which had been the only result of their appeal to arms.”

The appeal to arms has brought devastation to the region and the people yet again. Names of contenders have changed. But miscalculations on the part of the anti-state group and the results are so shockingly identical. In Swat at least history did repeat itself recently.

Swat and other districts of the Malakand division have been centres of intermittent religious — often hard-line — movements. The question is, are the Swatis prone to militancy too often? Are they extremists by nature?

Veteran nationalist politician Afzal Khan Lala says they (the Swatis) are not. “Had they been extremists, they would have supported religious parties in previous elections. Instead, all of the national and provincial assembly seats were taken by secular parties like ANP and PPP. They are a peaceful, moderate, tolerant and enlightened people. I think they were encouraged to support the militants by previous governments.”

According to Lala, the militants “were allowed to occupy the administration, the judicial system, emerald mines and the economy of the region. They fined, punished, abducted, killed and terrorised common people who defied their law, but they were not stopped.”

Earlier, Sufi Mohammad was brought over to Swat by the chief minister to harm Jamaat-e-Islami. He and his men took out weapons, cut off Swat and other districts from the rest of the country for days shouting ‘Shariat ya Shahadat’. The Shariah Regulation 1994 and another amended regulation in 1998 were enforced in submission to his demands — after all, the Pakistani constitution has Islamic provisions and there is no need for the new or old regulations. It requires a two-third majority in the parliament to amend the law but the gun-wielding militants forced the government to comply.

“Sufi was allowed to lead thousands of people to Afghanistan most of whom died there while he escaped. He would have been killed by the angry people in the area but the government took him into custody and saved him. This government released him, pinned high hopes on him to control militancy. On his demand, another regulation was enforced recently, Quaid-e-Azam’s pictures were removed from the room where he would negotiate with officials. But what did he do afterwards? He declared the entire Pakistani system anti-Islamic. He had lost the confidence of the people for his continuous summersaults. I told the NWFP chief minister on the phone not to make a leader of him. But the government went for another pact with him. We, the people of Swat, were not consulted. We have had to face destruction for the faults and wrongs of the previous governments.”

Lala adds aggressively, “Taliban unleashed a reign of terror, there is no question of supporting them or their abetters in the political arena.”

In his view, the Pukhtoons were a “gullible lot” and could be easily cheated in the name of Islam. This, he says, is true not only for the Pukhtoons in Malakand but also in other areas. “In Afghanistan, too, we’ve seen that. The west used mullahs successfully against freedom fighters like Ghazi Amanullah Khan. But what can you say when the Pukhtoons continue to kiss the hands and the feet of the mullahs while none of the family members of Ghazi lives there.”

Wajid Ali Khan, provincial Minister for Environment, says the people in Swat and Malakand have never been pro-extremism though historically they are pro-religion. He recalls that the people of the region voted for liberal parties like ANP and PPP ever since the 1970s. It was only in 2002 that they supported the MMA for a number of other factors.

“When the PATA regulation governing Malakand was declared null and void in 1994, a vacuum was created. The mullahs and, later, Taliban took advantage of the situation and created a crisis on the issue. The people didn’t support them. They just desired speedy and cheap justice. If they had love for them, why would they have gone out of the area when the army launched the operation? Their immediate departure nullifies the notion that the Swatis love Taliban,” he declares.

According to Mumtazuddin, a historian and former administrator of an IDP camp, Swat was a princely state which was merged into Pakistan in 1969. “My question is why wasn’t it made a normal part of Pakistan? Why was it made a semi-tribal region? Why was it governed by the PATA regulation and not by the normal law of the land?”

The women lot also supported the Taliban initially. A woman tells TNS in the Sheikh Yaseen camp in Mardan that she was enchanted by the sermons of Maulana Fazlullah. Another woman says she donated 70 tola gold to Fazlullah though she had to pay a heavy price for this. “My husband divorced me in anger,” she says. “We had no idea that our savings would be used to raise an army to kill and humiliate us, to confine us indoors and to flog us in public. We are ashamed we supported them.”

Rebuilding Swat

Rebuilding the region

There might be big plans for reconstruction on paper, the situation on the ground does not look impressive — at least for the time being

By Tahir Ali

(The News 27-09-09)

Massive funds are needed for the reconstruction of most parts of the Malakand division hit hard by the Taliban-led militancy. But the project is yet to take off as the international community seems least enthusiastic.

The rich Muslim Gulf states have been particularly lying back in this respect. The United States has contributed the most with $281 million so far, but that too mostly for the earlier, relief phase.

There might be impressive plans for rebuilding the region on paper, the situation on the ground does not look impressive — at least for the time being. The government is said to have prepared a comprehensive reconstruction and development plan for the region. But its implementation could start only when sufficient funds are available and law and order improves.

A UN official recently said that only three percent of the $58 million needed for rehabilitation of the IDPs and 17 percent of funds required to rebuild the 411 schools had been confirmed.

“Foreign aid agencies are still waiting for the green signal to start work in the area due to security issues. Foreign donors are reluctant to offer assistance for global credit crunch, lack of an authoritative reconstruction plan, want of transparency and trust deficit,” says a local aid worker.

Jacob J Lew, US Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources, however, did praise the NWFP chief minister for “a very good sense of his needs, his limitations and for his capacity to partner quite effectively.”

Pakistan’s rehabilitation plan for Malakand, of about $2.5 billion, was approved by the Friends of democratic Pakistan (FoDP) meeting in Turkey but no cash inflows followed.

NWFP senior minister Rahimdad Khan hopes the September 25 meeting of the FoDP in USA will entail generous assistance for the Malakand reconstruction plan.

For some it is rather premature to talk of the reconstruction phase when the provision of return package of Rs 25,000 through ATM cards — part of the earlier relief phase — is yet to complete.

“There is only one ATM issuance centre in Mardan for the IDPs. Most people returned home without payments. ATM centres should be opened in Swat and Buner,” says a worker.

Rahimdad Khan says the Frontier has earmarked Rs 2 billion while the federal government Rs 50 billion for rehabilitation phase to offset any delay in foreign assistance. “Another development plan for Swat worth Rs 4 billions has been approved. We should be able to compensate the area people for maize crop which was not allowed for security reasons. We shall also be giving Rs 0.3 or 0.12 million for rebuilding of homes.”

In case the donors fail to fulfil their pledges, Khan says, the entire annual development programme of NWFP will be diverted and utilised for the reconstruction of the area.

According to him, MD will be developed into a model division. “Several mega projects such as the double road from Dargai to Mingora, the Malakand tunnel and the setting up of a Cadet College as well as the National Vocational and Technical Education Commission (NAVTEC) have been approved for MD.”

The government, he claims, intended to pay Rs 25,000 return package to over 0.3 million registered families, “but there are also thousands of families who left their homes late and were registered. Many others didn’t leave their homes either.”

He says the Prime Minister has announced a package of Rs 2 billion to provide return assistance to the newly registered 53,000 families. The federal government has released Rs 6 billion out of Rs 24 billion approved for strengthening of police force and the Frontier Constabulary in NWFP. “The police force shall be doubled and police stations increased in Swat.”

The main focus of reconstruction efforts would be strengthening of administrative structure, revamping justice system, improving service delivery and socio-economic growth. Army should supplement the reconstruction efforts of the local administration.

Malakand Division boasted 23 technical and vocational institutes. By reviving these and creating more opportunities for skill training and education of the young and the women, the socio-economic situation of the region can be improved. Besides, the whole lot of people who have developed different mental ailments as a result of shock must be provided proper treatment.

Swat earlier had 30 health facilities that are now either partially or totally damaged. The shortage of gynaecologists, medical officers and lady health workers in MD remains to be helped.

The future of some 40,000 youngsters who were studying in over 1,000 seminaries in the area, should be secured.

Local industries like tourism, horticulture and livestock should be revived. NWFP should be declared a war-hit zone. It must be given a relief package soon as promised by the federal government last month.

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