Rice growers in KP devastated

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa farmers await relief

By Tahir Ali
Monday, 25 Oct, 2010

PADDY growers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, particularly in Malakand division, hit hard by floods and soil erosion, are waiting for government support.

The loss to rice crop and land, farmers say, carries risks of food security, price-hike, decreased exports, low incomes and increased poverty. The worst hit are the subsistence farmers.

The government would have to reclaim the fields and canals to facilitate cultivation of Rabi crop. KP agriculture minister has said the provincial administration would do everything possible to reclaim the 35,000 acres which had been rendered uncultivable by the floods. But farmers are skeptical of seeing it done any time soon as the task requires huge funds, machinery, personnel and strong commitment on the part of the government.

Abdur Rahim Khan, secretary general of the KP chamber of agriculture, said rice farmers were badly hit. “They should be provided free or subsidised agriculture inputs. Their agriculture loans should be written off or at least the interest thereon should be waived. Easy farm and non-farm loans to small farmers should also be arranged,” he said.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation says rice is the worst-hit crop in KP. An official from the agriculture ministry said 71 per cent rice crop standing over 55,000 acres was washed away by floods, inflicting loss of over Rs2 billion to farmers. The loss will have serious implications for the impoverished farmers.

Four districts of Malakand division – Swat, Dir upper and lower and Malakand – were home to 68,000 acres or 88 per cent of province-wide paddy crop. But the destroyed crop of Malakand Division constituted 95 per cent of the total devastated crop. The floods also washed away 90 per cent of paddy crop in Peshawar, Nowshera and Charsadda but due to mere cumulative acreage of around 1,500 acres, its impact was very little.

“Around 35,000 acres in Swat and Dir districts have been rendered uncultivable by around three feet of sand and mud and concentration of pebbles and stones. While the loss of standing crops is also huge, the soil-erosion caused by the floods has been especially horrific. The affected farmers need immediate relief,” said Muhammad Khan, a resident of Batkhela.

Rice is of an important diet for people in MD who use Begumay variety in their evening meals daily.

“Rice is the favourite food and one of the biggest businesses of farmers in Swat, Malakand, lower/upper Dir and Chitral. The low-intensity monsoon floods in the last century had made this land more fertile and suitable for growing rice. Unfortunately, the mud layer is no more there on the fields situated on river banks. It will take 15 to 20 years to spread another layer of fertile mud over the bald land surface,” he added.

Muhammad Naeem from Swat said rice fields on river and stream banks in Dir, Swat and Chitral have been made uncultivable by floods. “Floods have eroded vast lands. I have lost paddy crop on 102 canals on my land. Rich farmers may bear the loss but where will the poor go? They need immediate relief and a vigorous rehabilitation plan and immediate reclamation of their lands,” he said.

“While rice crop in other areas has matured and is being harvested, it is still unripe in Malakand Division and the government should work closely with farmers to save the crop,” added Naeem.

For lack of rice mills in the area, most of the work in different phases of paddy cultivation, harvesting and milling are done manually. It consumes more time, energy, resources and lessens the profit margin for growers.

Haji Niamat Shah, a farmer leader in KP, said per acre yield in most of KP was just around 400kg which was less than the potential of 800kg. “This is because no quality local/hybrid paddy seed is provided to farmers. While the crop requires abundant water, the destruction of irrigation network and soil erosion in the area means still lesser per acre yield in the region,” he said.

Rice growers also face shortage of paddy seed for next year crop as a huge quantity of their stored seed was washed away by the floods.

“The KP seed industry should provide the farmers with sufficient stock of paddy seed for next year,” said Shah.

Increasing pharmaceutical exports

Boosting pharma exports
By Tahir Ali

(DAWN, Monday, 18 Oct, 2010)

http://news.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/in-paper-magazine/economic-and-business/boosting-pharma-exports-800

PAKISTAN’S low exports of pharmaceutical products at about $100 million can be significantly increased provided the local pharma sector is given incentives and relieved of regulatory burdens, industry sources say.

Though pharmaceutical exports have become the seventh largest manufacturing-based export segment, highest infrastructure and operating cost, inconsistent government policies, high duties, lack of research and development facilities, high interest rates, energy shortage and the poor security situation have obstructed efforts to raise exports to their potential.

Khalid Mehmood, chief executive of a national pharmaceutical company says the pharma industry was made to pay one per cent of its profit before tax (PBT) for the central research fund (CRF).

“We have been paying CRF for years without getting a single short or long-term benefit. No such thing is being levied on any other industry. Conversely, they are given support for setting up laboratories and R&D centres. The CRF must be eliminated if the industry has to grow,” he said.

Export insurance policy is required for protecting exporters from payment risks. While governments of the competing countries have devised protection mechanisms for their exporters, Pakistan has not. This should be done immediately,” he added.

Exports of pharmaceuticals are dependent on the capability of the manufacturer to obtain certification from WHO and other regulatory agencies of the importing countries.

“A pharmaceutical facility to qualify for accreditation by these agencies, requires at least Rs3-5 billion of capital expenditures and Rs200-300 million of operating expenses annually. This necessitates huge capital and profitability for the company,” he said.

“To be able to do that, prices of medicines should be deregulated. Ever since the Indian and the Bangladeshi authorities have done that, manufacturing plants in India and Bangladesh have gone up to 90 and four respectively while none has been set up in Pakistan, ” he informed.

Pakistan’s pharmaceutical exports are just around $100 million as against India’s exports of $11 billion which are expected to surge to $40bn by 2012.

To the fear that deregulation will increase the prices of medicines, he said, essential drugs, recommended by the WHO, should be regulated and their prices controlled. “This is being done in India and Bangladesh where only 74 and 109 molecules are on the controlled list of drugs. For all other products, the price is deregulated. Standard pricing should be adopted in the country,” said another expert.

“Some importing countries require a certificate of prices from the exporting country to establish price for imports. It harms exporters who cannot charge the higher prices prevailing in the external markets as the prices of drugs are low here and are mentioned on the registration letter. Higher price certificates should be provided to exporters only for exports,” he suggested.

Sources said exports can be increased if the quality of the products and the country’s regulatory framework are in line with the global and regional practices. “Drug regulatory requirements must be harmonised with those in ASEAN region provided prices of locally manufactured drugs are increased to their level and are deregulated. But how does Pakistan formulate a regulatory policy which is in line with the international best practices and yet it does not penalise the industry? One way is to form a pharmaceutical regulatory authority,” he suggested.

Pharmaceutical exporters need one-window fast-track facility.

“About seven days and sometimes weeks, are required for getting NOC for a consignment. Exporters would greatly benefit if one-window operation for export clearances and to expedite drug registration and clearance process is introduced,” he added.

The pharma industry also complains they have to pay five per cent workers’ profit participation fund (WPPF), and two per cent workers’ welfare fund (WWF). “Though it was meant for benefiting workers, they have least benefited from it. Industries in other countries are not taxed with the WPPF or the WWF. These should be eliminated as the tax slabs for the industry are already the highest in the world- around 35 per cent. On an emergency basis, at least the export revenue should be exempted from the two levies,” he added.

The industry will also benefit if the export freight subsidy (EFS) is introduced for it. “The EFS has been introduced for other industries in the trade policy but pharma industry has been ignored. Export development surcharge at 0.25 per cent should also be withdrawn immediately. Export refinance facility is currently in the ratio of 2:1. Performance requirement should be 1:1 as a number of countries in the region have this facility,” he desired.

As per regulation of State Bank of Pakistan vide circular No15 of August 15,, 2003 and subsequent circular No.9 of August 28, 2008, every exporting pharma company can retain 15 per cent of its sales proceeds in foreign currency account which can subsequently be used for foreign remittances and reimbursement of expenses etc.

“It is impossible to cater to huge international expenses with this amount. This is practically impossible in the initial years when expenses are high as against returns. Hence retention from 30—40 and 25—30 per cent of sales proceeds should be allowed for an exporting company having sales up to $10 million and more than $10 million respectively. This extension will not only help local exporters compete and survive in international market but also boost their exports,” he added.

As per regulation of FBR vide Sec No 152 (2), reimbursement of expenses by an exporting company to its representative office abroad is subjected to withholding tax at the rate of 30 per cent on every payment and in the case of double taxation treaty between Pakistan and exporting country, at 15 per cent of payment.

“Being reimbursement of expenses, these payments should be exempted from withholding tax and an appropriate provision be inserted in relevant section of the income tax ordinance to this effect,” he argued.

Pharmaceutical industry is providing direct and indirect employment to nearly four million people. It fulfills over 90 per cent of the country’s drug requirements. It saves huge foreign exchange as only less than 10 per cent of the medicines need to be imported. And it is fast moving towards 100 per cent self-sufficiency.

Dr Farooq’s assassination

Death of sanity

The task before us is to take forward Dr Khan’s mission of preaching tolerance

By T Ali

http://www.jang.com.pk/thenews/oct2010-weekly/nos-10-10-2010/pol1.htm#5

Dr Muhammad Farooq Khan’s death has shocked the country, a huge loss for Pakistani society in that he was a source of guidance and a voice against militancy in the country. With his death, the society has lost a passionate campaigner for tolerance and moderation.

As Dr Khan was a vocal critic of suicide attacks, Al Qaeda and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, militants were naturally prime suspects for his murder. The TTP claimed responsibility for his assassination telling the BBC, “He was killed for criticising us on every forum and for advocating modern Islam.”

Militants, after having been flushed out of some strongholds, seem to have changed their strategy and are now targeting potential personalities who openly opposed and criticised their agenda. The assassination of Dr Farooq seems to be the continuation of this strategy.

Dr Khan and his associates would always say he had no threat from militants. He would laugh and say: “I am a man of letters and arguments. I can be silenced by argument.” Afzal Khan Lala, famous nationalist leader from Swat, says Dr Farooq Khan was a national asset, “Balance, patience, tolerance, respect and love for all were prominent traits of his personality. We Swatis in particular are indebted to him for his untiring efforts in establishing the Swat University. He was also giving psychological treatment to about 100 arrested suicide bombers and young militants here,” he says.

“To Taliban I say by killing noble sons of the soil like Dr Farooq and men of character and knowledge, you are adding to the brain-drain in our society; you are endangering the future of your own children. Change in the system can be brought about by education and peaceful struggle, not by killing people,” Lala says.

Brigadier Mehmood Shah, security analyst and Dr Khan’s close friend, says besides being a good friend, Khan was a highly learned person, “He had both the knowledge and the capability and courage to express it. At a time when very few dared challenge the militants, he defied them, exposed the weaknesses in their stance and interpreted Islam rightly,” he says.

“I hardly see anyone else in the country that has the requisite knowledge of modern and Islamic sciences and the courage and ability to convey his viewpoint like he did. While there are many who believe in what he did, there is none who can categorically and courageously say things he said,” Shah adds.

According to professor Mumtazuddin, his close associate, his personality can be summed up thus: he loved people, knowledge, hard work and reading and writing. Dr Khan had a multifaceted personality. He earned wide acclaim as a psychiatrist, writer, columnist, moderate scholar and intellectual throughout the world. He frequently delivered lectures both in and out of the country.

Khan authored 14 books in Urdu and English. Some of his works include: Pakistan and the 21st Century, Islam and women, Islam and the modern world, Islamic penal code, some discussions, and Muslim community: the way to success. War and Jihad in Islam which has been recently launched argues against private jihad and suicide attacks comprehensively.

Spokesman of Swat University, Nadeem Shah, says the students and entire staff of the university were shocked at his assassination. “The fact the university is functioning well is because of his untiring efforts for the last two years. He had to start from scratch. For about one year he worked as project director without any pay saying until the project succeeded, he won’t claim remuneration, he says, adding, “He had accepted the job despite opposition by his family for he loved the cause of education. He was the happiest man when in June this year the president of Pakistan sanctioned the university. He was to address the join sitting of the students and academia on October 4 but he was martyred on October 2.”

There seems to be a disagreement between federal and provincial governments on whether the Swat University should be named as such. One option is to name it as Dr Farooq Shaheed University, to which all will agree considering the work he has done and the sacrifices he has offered. The vice-chancellors committee of 14 public sector universities in KP has also demanded for the same.

Though he had been associated with Jamat-e-Islami, Tehreek-e-Insaf, and other political parties but he was apolitical these days. He told this writer once that association with a particular party or sect makes one biased, “You cannot be impartial in matters involving your party or opponents. Justice is the ultimate sufferer. Intellectuals should avoid this.”

“Now the task before us is to take forward his mission of presenting religion in its true perspective and creating awareness through education and encouraging dialogue,” says a Peshawar-based educationist wishing anonymity.

Woes of Tobacco growers

Woes of tobacco growers
By Tahir Ali
DAWN-Monday, 11 Oct, 2010

TOBACCO growers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have suffered this year because of lower than expected price of their bumper crop and the devastation caused by the floods. They say they may reduce tobacco cultivation next year for want of right price.

According to Haji Niamat Shah Roghani, vice-president of Anjuman-e-Kashtkaran, KP, the estimated cost of tobacco production for the current year is Rs165 per kg while the weighted average price (Wap) of per kilogramme notified by the Pakistan Tobacco Board is Rs98.

“The price should have been around Rs200 per kg as cost of farm inputs has increased exorbitantly. Because of increase in production cost, the farmers are not getting good returns. Last year companies purchased tobacco from growers at Rs100 per kg as against the Wap of Rs82 per kg. This year, the Wap is Rs98 but companies are buying the commodity at Rs103-115/kg,” he said.

“As per the law (MLO No.487), tobacco firms are bound to purchase the entire tobacco crop from growers. Companies often delay procurement. This hurts the farmers who don’t have storage facility. Tobacco companies should start purchases in time. Also, they usually announce closure of purchase centres without procuring farmers’ yield. This compels them to sell their produce at throw away price to companies or the middlemen,” he said.

“Farmers are also being deprived of their possible gains by the commission agents. Rather than purchasing through the middlemen, companies should buy tobacco directly from growers. The delay in payments to growers, on an average by six months, leaves them unable to prepare their fields for the next crop,” Roghani added.

On an average 74.5 million kg tobacco is annually produced in the country. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa alone can produce 300 million kg annually provided the government and tobacco companies support the farmers through good prices, free or subsidised inputs and soft loans,” he added.

Abdul Akbar Khan, senior president and chairman Kissan Board Pakistan, said due to less tobacco yield last year, tobacco companies had encouraged farmers to grow more tobacco. Farmers had a bumper crop this year but the companies did not offer good prices.

“While last year, the companies had extended price well over Rs18-20 per kg above the Wap, this year they only went above it for a few rupees. The cost of per hectare yield has gone up manifold but tobacco firms are not ready to offer competitive prices. Farmers will be left with no option but to reduce the crop production or bring down tobacco acreage next year,” he added.

The companies’ demand for this year was 65-66 million kg. “They have purchased double that quantity but at the minimum price which is a great injustice to the farmers. While the companies sorted out the best tobacco leaves in the earlier stages, they left out the rest which is being purchased at lower rates by companies’ agents

To a question he said, the companies do announce their demand before the start of growing season each year, but illiteracy among farmers, lack of coordination among the growers and tobacco companies and PTB leaves them unaware to their advantage.

He said while the cost of per hectare production of tobacco was fixed on the basis of 3000kg per hectare yield, companies made purchase agreements with farmers on the basis of 21,000kg PHY which goes against the interest of growers.

Khan said the recent floods had damaged about one million kg tobacco crop in Charsadda alone inflicting Rs4.4billion loss to farmers. The tobacco growers in the flood- hit areas must be compensated for their losses,” he added.

He said lack of sound agriculture policy had made things worst for the farmers, It has often resulted in a problem of plenty or shortage. A sound agriculture policy would ensure that the extreme fluctuations in prices of the commodities are not experienced,” he added.

“Two big tobacco companies are paying less prices to farmers. While smaller companies are offering competitive prices. Why this can’t be done by big ones,” Roaghni asked.

“Tobacco industry employs over three million people directly or indirectly. It contributes billions of rupees to the national kitty in different taxes. It also saves dozens of billions by saving imports of cigarettes besides earning millions in exports.

“But the money is not being spent on the development of tobacco growing areas or on supporting the tobacco growers,” said Roghani and urged a special fund for the development of tobacco specific areas of the province.

Learning from the calamity

Learning from the catastrophe

By Tahir Ali

It is rare that failures and disasters provide a glimmer of hope, but when they do, they offer opportunities for sound development and reconstruction. If the post-flood scenario is analysed vigilantly and critically, the natural calamity that has wrought devastation in almost all four provinces can be turned into an opportunity for reconstruction of the country’s shabby and fragile infrastructure.

The recent flash floods have inflicted colossal losses on the economy. But rather than projecting fabricated and over exaggerated damage figures to beg for more foreign aid, we need to learn from this crisis and do improved and effectual planning to cope with natural disasters in future. Natural misfortunes such as the earthquake of 2005 and the recent floods cannot be stopped but yes their impact can be minimised by taking some concrete measures.

Each time any deadly disaster strikes the nation, they underline and bring to the public eye our structural weaknesses on how to cope with such upheavals. Absence of administrative bodies and technical know-how to deal with and thrive in crisis situations leaves the country always relying upon international help in rescue, relief and rehabilitation operations.

Dearth of funds, modernised equipments, personnel and resources to rescue the marooned people, of an organisational setup, which automatically springs into action at times of need, are some of the ailments that our emergency programme has been plagued with since a long time.

Extremely hesitant as the incumbent elite leadership is to plunge their routine non-development expenditure, the shortage of funds in the wake of lackluster international donations leaves little room with the government other than to either slash development budget or seek expensive foreign debts, as has been the case in the country habitually. While the former harms the prospects for advancement and enlargement as less development budget means fewer facilities for the people, the latter spurges the foreign debt burden and the budget deficit, which in turn distorts the balance of payments position.

The lack of any credible, autonomous and stable calamity-dealing body leads to another frailty- that of trust deficit on part of the international donors who decline to donate as much as required. People do not give generously because they are not certain if their funds would be spent honestly.

Problems are also compounded by a lack of any flood reconstruction and rehabilitation authority at the national level. The national and provincial disaster management authorities, federal flood commission, and provincial reconstruction and rehabilitation authorities, inter alia, are prevailing but there is still a dire need for a competent organisation at the national level for the purpose.

The association should have branches both at the provincial and district levels. Working in close coordination with national and foreign bodies, it will be responsible for rescue and relocation, relief and rehabilitation of the people hit by any disaster in future.

If the body is established, led by individuals of repute and integrity, given sufficient amount of funds and independence are transferred to its account by the government, it will go a long way to diminish the apprehensions of local as well as foreign donors.

The inability of the government to come to the rescue of the countless number of people stranded by fiercely gushing waters leaves the ground open to the army or the religious aid groups that are accused of having relations with the militants.

It also leaves the armed forces to obtain the foremost role in relief and rehabilitation operations that overextends their resources and attention from being focused on tackling pivotal security-related issues.

Another core issue is the paucity of appropriate infrastructure that could accommodate the displaced persons. The result is that they are either sheltered in educational institutions which affects the academic year or are accommodated in make-shift homes or on roadsides where there is no protection against the vagaries of weather.

The lack of coordination and understanding among government departments in crisis situations leads to several other complexities like dubious figures, failure to disseminate information, accountability weaknesses and the like.

Had a unified political leadership made an appeal for local and foreign donations, the situation would have been quite different. Leaders are role models for the people. But the leadership has failed itself by not only distancing itself from the core issues faced by the people but also indulging in activities that are counter productive and incompatible with the tragedy.

It was deplorable and irrational that the government continued its war against a section of the media and mud-slinging between opposition and ruling groups continued even during the calamity.

It seems by our continued anti-west rhetoric, we seem to have exhausted the reservoir of good-will in the comity of nations and we should not expect too much from the outside in this backdrop.

Relatively low-key or negative coverage in the international media has spoiled chances for robust funding. This warrants hard work on part of the government’s media managers. All this explains the lackluster response by donor agencies and the international community towards the aid appeals.

This lack of trust in the government’s ability to spend aid money effectively and honestly should not keep it from helping millions of affectees.

Reconstruction and rehabilitation of the flood-affected individuals and areas is a massive challenge. This can hardly be successfully tackled by the government alone. Every segment of the society must play its role in addressing the disaster. The international donors and relief organisations should also help the country rehabilitate the flood victims in the earliest.

It is high time that the government should build houses in every district to accommodate displaced or calamity-hit people. It will save the future of millions of students studying in the public sector schools whose education suffers as affectees are sheltered in these schools.

The flood zoning policy must be strictly implemented. Construction of houses, hotels and shops near or on banks of the rivers should not be allowed. A machinery pool should be established in all the four provinces. The pool, inter alia, should have plenty of helicopters, rescue boats, tents, heavy-duty machinery for lifting, digging and breaking purposes, excavators, tractors, bulldozers, vehicles, ready-made houses and bridges that can be used in similar emergencies in future.

Pakistan should also open a permanent endowment calamity fund where annual allocations must be made. The funds would be used for emergency rescue and relief activities and for long-term recovery and reconstruction endeavours.

A localised flood warning system and calamity reporting system is also the call of the hour. Some foreign governments are ready to do the needful.

Rather than waiting for foreign donations, the federal government should divert at least 30 per cent of development and 50 per cent of non-development expenditures to the rehabilitation of the flood-affected people.

Resource shortages must be overcome through personal sacrifices and smart management. The military leadership has been spearheading the campaign which has won it great laurels. Political leadership should not be lagging behind any more.

The government can also save billions by bringing down its current expenditure by unifying several overlapping departments, restructuring public sector enterprises, rationalising the size of government, curtailing foreign visits and unnecessary expenses on public offices.

Yvonne Ridley’s email to US Attorney general on Dr Afia’s case

Email by Yvonne Ridley US Attorney general on Dr Afia
Dear Mr Holder,
I am a journalist and film-maker who has been investigating the rather intriguing case of Dr Aafia Siddiqui since her disappearance with her three children in 2003.
Can you please tell me why a Pakistani citizen, who allegedly carried out a crime in Afghanistan, was charged, tried and sentenced in a US court?
Not only did the alleged crime happen in another country, but Ms Siddiqui was renditioned without formal extradition papers and without correct consular access according to official US records.
No other citizen, from anywhere else in the world, has ever been put on trial in a US criminal court for the attempted murder of US soldiers although quite clearly, from the horrific statistics coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan the death toll and injuries of US soldiers is now running in excess of tens of thousands.
Can we assume from this that the US is now in full occupation, and therefore in control of sovereignty of Afghanistan or did Judge Richard Berman simply make a mistake by accepting such a case in to his court?
I have copied in Lord Nazir Ahmed from the British House of Lords in to this email since he has taken a particularly close interest in the whole case.

I look forward to a response soonest.
Kind regards
Yvonne Ridley
First Witness Productions Ltd
LondonENGLAND

Interviews of Dr Farooq Khan

I had interviewed Dr Muhammad Farooq Khan on a number of occasions.

Here is his the link to the interview which was published in The News  in 2008.

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/aug2008-weekly/nos-10-08-2008/pol1.htm#3
Here is another interview with him in which he severely criticises the militants.

http://www.jang.com.pk/thenews/dec2009-weekly/nos-13-12-2009/dia.htm#2

He also spoke on the IDP’s phenomenon.

http://www.jang.com.pk/thenews/sep2009-weekly/nos-27-09-2009/spr.htm#5

He also spoke on different education topics:

Dealing with students’ failures:

http://www.brecorder.com/index.php?id=1086516&currPageNo=1&query&search&term&supDate

The curriculum issue:

http://www.brecorder.com/index.php?id=1060283&currPageNo=1&query=&search=&term=&supDate=

http://www.brecorder.com/index.php?id=1051642&currPageNo=1&query=&search=&term=&supDate=

and scores of other topics.