کالام میں سیاح دوستی

کالام میں سیاح دوست رویہ

طاہرعلی خان

http://www.humsub.com.pk/69143/tahir-ali-khan-5/

 3جولائی 2017 کو ہم سب پر وسی بابا کی تحریر‘‘شمال والو! بدتمیزی کا علاج بتاؤں؟’’ شایع ہوئی جس میں انہوں نے شمالی علاقہ جات کے مکینوں کو اپنی روایت کا تحفظ کرنے، جس سیاح کے خلاف بدتمیزی کا واقعہ رپورٹ ہو اس سے جرمانہ وصول کرنے اور دوبارہ مخصوص عرصے کے لیے اپنے علاقے میں گھسنے نہ  دینے کا مشورہ دیا ہے  اور امید ظاہر کی ہے کہ جب دو چار کو پانچ دس ہزار جرمانہ ہو گا تو لڑکے لڑکیوں سے کئی گز دور رہیں گے۔ اس تحریر پر ایک تبصرہ میں رانا اورنگزیب رانگا  نے پٹھانوں میں اجنبیوں، مسافروں اور خواتین کے ساتھ تعاون واحترام کے چند واقعات قلمبند کرتے ہوئے انکی تریف کی ہے۔

جالبنڑ کی چڑھائی

یہ کالم اور اس پر تبصرہ پڑھ کر مجھے کالام سوات کے حوالے سے اپنے کچھ  مشاہدات ا ور تاثرات یاد آئے۔ یہ آج سے پندرہ برس پہلے کی بات ہے۔ گرمیوں کی تین مہینے کی تعطیلات کے لیے سکول بند ہوگٗئے تو ہم چند دوستوں نے یہ چھٹیاں خاندان کے ہمراہ پاکستان کے سوئٹزر لیںڈ سوات کے علاقے کالام میں گزارنے کا ارادہ کیا۔ وہاں جانے سے پہلے ہم نے گھر کرائے پر لے لیے تھے۔ تین مہینے کے لے اُس وقت ایک مناسب گھر دس سے پندرہ ہزار میں مل جاتا تھا ۔ 2010 کے سیلاب سے ابھی سڑکیں خراب نہیں ہوئی تھیں۔ ہم سہولت سے پہنچے بھی اور وہاں ہمارا قیام بھی بڑاخوشگوار رہا۔ ہم چار دوست روزانہ میلوں پیدل آس پاس کے علاقوں کے چکرلگاتے رہتے اور ہفتے میں ایک بار دورافتادہ مقامات پر گاڑی میں بھی جاتے ۔اس دوران کئ ایک یادگار واقعات پیش آئے جن سے ایک دوواقعات وسی بابا  کے کالم اور اس پر تبصرہ کی تائید کرتی ہیں۔

جالبنڑ سے کالام کا نظارہ

ہم نے کالام بازار سے مغرب کی طرف تین کلومیٹر بلندی پر واقع ایک گاؤں جالبنڑ میں جگہ کرائے پر حاصل کی تھی۔ جالبنڑ سے  مغرب کی طرف اونچائی پرایک بڑا پہاڑ ہے اور ایک آبشار  بھی ہے جس پر چھوٹا سا بجلی گھر بنایا گیا ہے۔ مشرق کی طرف اونچائی پر برف سے لدی ہوئی پہاڑی چوٹیاں نظر آتی ہیں۔ شمال کی طرف بھی پہاڑیاں اور وسیع جنگلات دکھائی دیتے ہیں جبکہ اس کے جنوب میں  ایک پہاڑی ہے جس کے اُس طرف گیل کی مشہور وادی ہے۔ گیل اور جالبنڑ کے درمیانی پہاڑ کی چوٹی پر وسیع رقبے پر محیط ایک محل نما گھر اور باغ تھا، اس کے چاروں طرف خاردار تاریں اور آہنی جنگلے لگے ہوئے تھے۔ علاقے کے مکینوں کا کہنا تھا یہ لاہور کے شریف خاندان کا سرمائی گھر ہے۔

 جالبنڑ سے  بازار آنے جانے کے لیے کھیتوں کے درمیان ایک سڑک بنی ہوئی تھی۔ اس کی حالت بہت خراب تھی۔گیل کی وادی تک پہنچنے کے لیے جالبنڑ سے ایک انتہائی سخت چڑھائی والی پگڈنڈی لوگوں نے بنائی ہوئی تھی۔ ان راستوں پر نیچے آنے اور پھر واپس جانے کا اپنا ہی مزہ تھا۔ پٹھے مضبوط ہونے شروع ہوئے تو دم بھی آہستہ آہستہ پختہ ہوتا گیا۔ آغازمیں معمولی سفر کے بعد آرام کرنا پڑتا لیکن پھر میلوں سفر پر بھی اس کی ضرورت نہ پڑتی۔ یوں تو ہر ایک کو  فائدہ ہوا مگر ہمارے ایک لحیم دوست جس کا وزن کالام جانے سے پہلے ۱۱۰ کلوگرام تھا ان سیاحتی مٹرگشتیوں کے بعد ۸۰ کلو تک آگئے۔

جالبنڑ کے لوگوں کو بڑا ملنسارپایا۔ جس شخص کا مکان ہم نے کرایہ پر لیا تھا وہ حاجی صاحب کہلاتے تھے۔ انہوں نے ہماری دعوت کی۔ اس کے بعد کئ دوسرے افراد نے بھی مہمان نوازی کی۔ پنجاب اور دوسرے علاقوں کے لوگ بھی یہاں رہ رہے تھے اور وہ بھی بڑے خوش اور مطمئن تھے۔

ایک روز جالبنڑ میں عشاء کی نماز کے شوروغوغا بلند ہوا۔ پتہ چلا کسی سیاح پنجابی جوڑی کو کسی نے بازار سے اوپر جالبنڑ آتے ہوئے نقدی اور زیورات سے محروم کردیا ہے۔ کچھ بزرگ حضرات  رونے والی لڑکی اور پریشان لڑکے کی ڈھارس بندھانے لگے جب کہ اس دوران لاؤڈ سپیکروں پر جوڑے کے لٹنے کا اعلان کرکےکہا گیا کہ سب لوگ نکل آئیں تاکہ چوروں کو پکڑا جا سکے۔ آناً فاناً  اپنے علاقے کی اس طرح بدنامی پر بپھرے اور لاٹھیوں سے مسلح جوان ادھر ادھر پھیل گئے۔ تھوڑی دیر بعد دو نوجوان ان کے قبضے میں تھے۔ انہیں بزرگوں کے سامنے پیش کیاگیا مگر اس سے پہلے انکی اچھی خاصی مرمت کی جا چکی تھی۔ معلوم ہوا یہ لڑکے بھی سیاح کے طور پرباہر سے آئے تھے۔ ان سے رقم اور زیورات لےکر جوڑے کےحوالے کر دئیے گئے۔ وہ ڈاکو روتے دھوتے معافی مانگتے رہے کہ آئندہ وہ یہاں ایسا کچھ نہیں کریں گے اور نہ ہی وہ سوات آئیں گے۔ بعد میں غالباً انہیں پولیس کے حوالے کردیا گیا۔

kondol lake

ایک اورناقابل فراموش واقعہ کالام سے سولہ کلومیٹردور شمال میں واقع اتروڑ وادی میں پیش آیا۔ اتروڑ سے شمال کی جانب چار میل کی مسافت پر واقع جھیل کنڈول یا کنڈل جھیل (ڈھنڈٌ) کو جانے کا راستہ دشوار گزار ہے، پانچ چھے گھنٹہ کا پیدل سفر ہے اور اوپر آکسیجن کی کمی بھی پیش آتی ہے جس کے لیے مقامی لوگوں نے ایک مقامی بوٹی کو مسلسل سونگھتے رہنے کی ہدایت کی۔ وہ واقعی ایک کٹھن سفر تھا۔ ہمارے لحیم دوست کی سانس تو لگ بھگ ٹوٹ گئ تھی اور ہمارے ہاتھوں کے توتے اڑ گئے تھے لیکن خدا خدا کرکے کنڈل جھیل پہنچ گئے تو ایک اورامتحان ہمارے منتظر تھا۔ ہمارے ساتھ لاہور سے تعلق رکھنے والے پانچ لڑکوں کو ایک گروپ بھی تھا۔ ہم وہاں پہنچ گئے تو لاہوری بھائیوں کے درمیان کسی مسئلے پر توتو میں میں شروع ہوگئ۔ دیکھتے ہی تین لڑکے ایک دھان پان سے لڑکے پر ٹوٹ پڑے اور اس سے پہلے کہ ہم بیچ بچاؤ کرتے وہ لڑکا اور اس کے ایک اور ساتھی کے سر اور چہرے سے خون بہنے لگا۔ ان کے کپڑے جگہ جگہ سے پھٹ گئے تھے۔ ہم نے لڑکوں کو روکنے کی کوشش کی تو وہ ہم سے بھی الجھ گئے کہ ہمارا ان کے ذاتی معاملے میں کیا کام۔ جو قصور اس لڑکےکا ان سے معلوم ہوا وہ  بہت معمولی تھا مگرلاہوری دوست ہمارے منع کرنے اور اس لڑکے کی بچاؤ بچاؤ کی دہائی کے باوجود  اس دوران اس کو ٹھڈے مارتے رہے۔ اس دوران مارنے والوں میں سے ایک نے آواز لگائی اس۔۔۔ کے کپڑے نکال دو۔  ہم ابھی اپنے اگلے طرزعمل پر ابھی سوچ رہے تھے کہ اس دوران  کچھ فاصلے پر موجود تین لڑکوں کا ایک گروپ تیزی سے قریب آیا۔  ایک لڑکے ، جس نے لمبا کوٹ اور چادر اوڑھی ہوئی تھی، نے آتے ہی مارنے والوں کو کہا کہ ہاتھ روک دیں اور ساتھ ہی ہمیں بھی کھری کھری سنائیں کہ پٹھان ہونے کے باوجود ہم خاموش تماشائی بنے ہوئے ہیں اور مظلوم کو بچانہیں رہے۔ بپھرے ہوئے لاہوری جوانوں نے اس کو بھی جھڑک دیا۔ اس لڑکے نے اچانک چادر اتار پھینکی اور کوٹ کے نیچے ہاتھ ڈال کر نکالا تو اس  میں کلاشنکوف تھی۔ اس نےکلاشنکوف کا رخ ان کی طرف کرکے انہیں ہاتھ اوپر اٹھانے اور آنکھیں بند کرکے کھڑے ہونے کا حکم دیا۔ اس کے بعد اس لڑکے کو اٹھایا اور اپنے ساتھیوں سے بھاری بھاری بدلہ لینے کا کہا۔ وہ لڑکا رونےلگ گیا کہ میں انہیں معاف کرتا ہوں آپ بھی انہیں معاف کردیں۔ کلاشنکوف والا لڑکا کہنے لگا۔ نہیں مگر اگر یہ خود آپ سے معافی مانگ لیں۔ لڑکے جو اس سے پہلے بڑے تیس مار خان بنے ہوئے تھے، فوراً لڑکے کے پاؤں پڑ گئے۔ لڑکے نے انہیں اٹھا کر گلے لگایا اور ہم سب نے ہنسی خوشی اکٹھے کھانا کھایا۔ کلاشنکوف والا لڑکا پھروہاں سے پہاڑکی جانب چلا اور جلد ہی نگاہوں سے اوجھل ہوگیا۔

ایک اور عجیب و غریب تجربہ یا مشاہدہ یہ تھا کہ کالام میں آپ کہیں بھی کسی کھیت یا باغ کے اندر مصروف کار لوگوں سے کوئی سبزی یا پھل مانگ لیں تو وہ آپ سے پیسے نہیں لیتے۔ بازار کی بات الگ ہے۔ گھر سے آپ کو دودھ بھی پیسوں سے نہیں مفت ملے گا اگر ہوگا تو۔ وہ کہتے ہیں کھیت، باغ اور گھر سے مانگنے کی کوئی چیز پیسوں سےبیچنا ان کی روایات کے خلاف ہے۔

مٹلتان کالام

ایک اور واقعہ پیش خدمت ہے۔ ایک روز حاجی صاحب اور جالبنڑ کے چند اور بزرگوں کے ساتھ ہم گیل وادی میں ’’شریف محل‘‘ میں ایک دعوت سے فارغ ہوکر واپس آرہے تھے کہ پہاڑ کی چوٹی پر راستے سے کافی دور ایک لڑکا لڑکی جھاڑیوں میں ’’راز ونیاز‘‘ کرتے نظر آئے۔ ہم ان کے پاس گئے کہ ان سے ’’تفتیش‘‘ کرلیں مگر حاجی صاحب نے ایک دو سوالات کے بعد ہی ہمیں انہیں چھوڑ کر نماز کے لیے مسجد کی راہ لینے پر آمادہ کر لیا۔ایسا لگا ہماری ’تجسس‘ اور ان کی ’سیاح دوستی‘ کے مقابلے میں ہماری تجسس ہار گئ۔

مہو ڈھنڈ کالام

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Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s hydro-power plan

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s 10-year hydro-power plan
By Tahir Ali
13th August, 2012

THE Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has launched a 10-year hydro-power action plan under which several projects would be executed in the province to generate 2100 megawatts of electricity.

Under the action plan 2011-2025, the Sarhad Hydro-Development Organisation (Shydo) would initiate eight hydro projects with a capacity of 628MW. These are Matiltan HPP, Swat, 84MW; Sharmai Dir 115MW; Koto Dir 31MW; Karora Kohistan 10MW; Jabori Mansehra eight MW; Shushai-Zhendoli Chitral 144MW; Shogo Sin Chitral 132 MW and Lawi Chitral 69MW.

KP Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti recently inaugurated the Matiltan and Daral Khwar hydro power projects (HPPs) in Swat with 84 and 36.5MW capacity each.

The Matiltan power station would have 6km long tunnel and would be completed in next five years while the Daral Khwar HPP at a cost of Rs7bn was expected to be ready in next three years. The later will be funded through Hydro Development Fund (HDF) and ADP in a ratio of 90:10 respectively.

According to official documents, Shydo has also started feasibility study of another 13 projects with a capacity of 1322MW to be completed in next two to three years at a cost of Rs5 billion.

Shydo is currently operating four projects in the province –one each in Malakand and Swabi districts and two in Chitral district.

The installed capacity of these projects is 105MW with an annual revenue generation capacity of over Rs2bn to 3bn.

A loan agreement has been signed with the Asian Development Bank for the development of hydro power projects at a cost of Rs60bn. Besides funding some projects under the same loan, Shydo has also financed feasibility studies of three projects of 48MW in Koto HPP Dir Lower, Shangla and Mansehra. Construction of these plants would start this year.

Shydo has also completed pre-feasibility studies of 10 sites in various districts of the province and these sites will be offered to private sector for development.

Chief officer of the Planning and Development Department Usman Gul said energy and power sector were priority sectors of the KP government. “We have entered the implementation stage and now the infrastructure will be developed in these areas.

However, these are long-term projects which will bear fruit in 4-5 years,” he said.

Though the rest of Malakand division accounts for most of the planned hydro power projects, Swat has very little share in the programme. Swat has great potential for run of the river projects.

According to the Shydo official, the government was spending 50 per cent of the funds in Malakand Dvision. “Almost 13 out of 15 ongoing projects and Rs600mn of Rs1.137bn total are for Malakand. Of the total cost of Rs23bn, the total project cost in case of Malakand division comes to around Rs16bn,” he added.

The provincial government from this fiscal year has doubled the royalty for power generating areas to 10 per cent of the net hydro profits receivable from Wapda/federal government from five per cent which would be spent on development in the areas.

The said share will be over and above the districts’ and provincial ADP.

Swat wanluts await proper care

English: a walnut and a walnut core

Swat walnuts await proper care

By Tahir Ali

http://www.dawn.com/2011/12/26/walnut-trees-need-proper-care.html

SWAT accounts for around 50 per cent of walnut trees in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. But the lack of official support and negligence, deforestation, non-plantation of new trees and attack of stem-borer has endangered this great agricultural asset, farmers say.

“Walnut trees in the area, especially in the Madyan valley, are hit by stem-borers which penetrate deep into their stems, eat them up and eventually lead to the death of the tree. Porcupine also eats the nuts when they are sown. But these are curable phenomenon. Many farmers are unaware of these problems.”

Shah Abdar, a Swat-based farmer, says walnut is sold between Rs5,000-12,000/50kg in the market depending upon their size and quality.

“ Given support from the government, walnut could be a bigger source of income for the area people. An ordinary family in upper Swat owns on an average 3-4 walnut trees. A single tree yields around 100-300kg of nut which by the current market price of about Rs10,000/50kg earns the family around Rs80,000-240,000,” he said. The forest department every year runs tree plantation campaigns but no progress is visible on the ground.

“The reason for this is absence of personal ownership. The seeds or saplings cultivated are often destroyed as there is no sufficient care. The government needs to provide expert advice, walnut saplings and seeds, pesticides/insecticides to farmers to grow more trees. In the hope of large returns, they will do whatever possible to keep it safe and healthy,” he says.

Hundreds of tons of walnut are produced in Bahrain, Kalam and other valleys of Swat, but the real potential of the nut in the area is far from being utilised.

“Swat is the best place for growing walnut. The tree usually grows on ridges of mountains, in the gorges and river-banks and thus doesn’t impact the already less arable land. But despite being the main asset and source of income of the family, the number of walnut trees are on the decline and only about 5-10 per cent of the potential in the area has been utilised so far,” he said.

In 2005 walnut production in Swat was 4,963 tons, which jumped to 6,973 tons in 2006. But in 2008, after the spread of militancy in the area, it dived to 3,960 tons.

“Though main roads in the area have been repaired to some extent making communications possible, link roads to far flung areas in the valley remain damaged making them inaccessible. It leaves the poor with no choice but to sell their trees to fruit dealers on meagre prices,” he said.

Malakand division accounts for around 90 per cent of the provincial land under walnut trees and grows thousands of tons of nut in Chitral, Swat, Lower and Upper Dir, Kohistan and Shangla. Nut of different sizes, quality and colours are produced here and marketed.

Saeedur Rehman, another farmer said the kernel of walnut depending on its quality and taste is sold at Rs30,000-35,000/50kg in the market. The brighter the kernel, the better is the price,” he said.

He was particularly unhappy over cutting of young trees for getting “Dandansa”. The bark and roots of the tree used as Dandansa, which is smuggled to neighbouring countries, ” he said.

Walnut is beneficial to health. Experts say it stimulates brain and is believed to be useful in treatment of stomach, liver and kidney diseases. It is recommended for cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure. Walnut helps control cholesterol level, strengthens walls of blood vessels and prevents diabetes, supports immune system, helps improve memory and speeds up recovery after serious operation.

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Walnut population short of potential

By Tahir Ali

Swat accounts for around 50 percent of the provincial walnut population and has around 500 hectares out of the total 1000 hectares under the walnut trees. But lack of official support, negligence of the concerned departments, continuous deforestation of the existing trees for getting ‘Dandansa’ and other purposes, non-cultivation of new ones and some ailments (stem-borer), ignorance of farmers and porcupine attacks have endangered this great asset,  farmers say.

“The walnut trees in the area, especially in Madyan valley are hit by stem-borer which eats up the stem eventually drying the tree. Porcupine also attack the seeds when they are planted. But these are curable phenomenon. The problem is most farmers are unaware of this,” said a farmer.

Shah Abdar, a Swat based farmer, said salnuts are sold between Rs5000-12000/50kg in the market depending upon their size, health and hardness or softness of nutshell.

“Subject to a little patronage and support from the government, walnut could be the greatest source of income and asset for the area people. An example will illustrate the point. An ordinary family in upper Swat owns on average 3-4 walnut trees. A walnut tree yields between 100kg-300kg of walnut fruit which by the current market price of about Rs10000/50kg earn them about Rs80,000-240,000,” he said.

The forest department, he said each year runs tree plantation campaigns but there is no progress on the ground.

“The reason for this is absence of personal ownership. The trees so cultivated are often destroyed by the people as there is no sufficient care and security for them.  The government and non-governmental organisations need to provide expert advice, walnut plantlets/seeds, pesticides/insecticides to farmers to grow more trees. It is only when the people will be provided plantlets or seeds and they grow it in their lands that the problem will be solved once and for all. In the hope of huge returns, they will do whatever possible to keep it safe and healthy,” he argued.

It can have great financial benefits for the poverty/militancy/floods-stricken farmers.

“Its financial benefits could be judged from the fact that there are around 5 big walnut tree is one canal of land. Farming families usually own less cultivable but much more non-cultivable lands in Swat. If we take the average land per family at 50 canals (around 6 acres) and the family grows walnut trees on it, it can become millionaire within no time. Just leave the 300kg yield per tree, even if the per tree yield is just 50kg, it will earn the family around Rs2.5million at the current market rate,” he opined.

He said hundreds of tons of walnuts are grown in Bahrain, Kalam and other valleys of Swat adding that the potential of walnut in the area is far from being utilized.

“Swat is the best place for walnut. The tree usually grows on mountain ridges, in the gorges and river-banks and thus doesn’t impact the already less arable land. But despite being the main asset and source of income for the family along with fruit, vegetable and livestock, the number of walnut trees has been on the decline and only about 5 to 10 per cent of the potential in the area has been utilised so far,” he said.

“Though main roads in the area have been repaired to some extent and communication made possible, the link roads to far flung areas in the valley are still inaccessible. It leaves the poor people with no choice but to sell their standing walnut trees to dealers on meagre prices thus incurring losses,” according to him.

Mlakand division accounts for around 90 per cent of provincial land under walnut trees and grows thousands of tons of walnut in Chitral, Swat, Lower and Upper Dir, Kohistan and Shangla.

Walnut of different sizes, quality and colour are produced here which are marketed in whole form or only its flesh, taken out and packed, is sold in the market.

Saeedur Rehman, another farmer said the walnut flesh, dependent upon its colour and taste, is sold at Rs30-35000/50kg in the market. The more the brighter the flesh, the better is the price. And the cooler an area, the more standard and delicious the walnut flesh,” he said.

He was particularly unhappy for cutting the walnut tree for getting “Dandansa”. “The problem is for Dandansa you have to cut down the younger trees whose stem-cover and roots are the best for the purpose. Even though it is unlawful to get Dandansa, its smuggling continues unabated which needs to be controlled,” he said.

Walnut has been found to be extremely beneficial for health. Experts say it stimulates brain and is believed to be useful in treatment of stomach, liver and kidney diseases. It is recommended for cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure. Walnut helps control cholesterol level, strengthens the walls of blood vessels and prevents diabetes, supports immune system, helps improve memory, speeds up the recovery period after a difficult operation or trauma.

review of Eralp

Map showing the location of Swat District (hig...

Swat where Eralp is being implemented

Lag in agriculture recovery
By Tahir Ali

BECAUSE of slow utilisation of funds, the Rs800 million project for early recovery of agriculture and livestock in Swat and Upper Dir has been extended for another year up to March 2012.To utilise the rest of the Rs500 million fund and to extend the project to the Malakand division, the provincial Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Settlement Authority (Parrsa) has committed another Rs200 million.

The project has received a mixed response from officials and farmers. While the project director Sanaullah Khan and some farmers from Swat were all praise for it, others criticised the alleged favouritism in choosing target areas and distribution of agricultural inputs etc. The project is financed by Italian government.

Mr Khan said: “Restoration and enhancement of agriculture and livestock in the area, formation and revival of the 127 male and 24 female organisations in villages, community empowerment, establishment of linkage between communities and government/service providers are the achievements of Eralp. Besides, capacity building of stake holders and development of private nurseries, fish farming and diversification of livelihood options are some of the notable achievements of the project so far,” he said.

“Swat farmers harvest wheat crops during July. According to a survey in 27 of the 32 UCs in the area, per hectare yield has jumped by 266 per cent to four tons per hectare from 1.5 tons/ha in 2009. Quality inputs were provided to farmers in appropriate quantities at proper time besides provision of technical guidance,” he said.

The Eralp during last year distributed 63 tons of maize, 24 tons of peas, 235 tons of wheat, 640 tons of onion and around 10 tons of pulses seeds along with fertiliser among growers. Another 51 tons of DAP and 436 tons of urea were also provided to them. About 0.296mn plants out of the target of 0.4mn were distributed to establish new orchards. And 10 poultry farms were set up and around 5,500 poultry units were provided to poor households in 32 union councils of Charbagh, Kabal, Khwazakhela and Matta tehsils of Swat and Dokdarra UC in Upper Dir.

In the livestock sector, against the 13,000 animal vaccination target, 48,000 were vaccinated. In the forestry sector, the target of 2.1 million plants reforestation has been crossed. Top working on 0.1mn olive trees against the target of 0.2mn was done. Block tree plantation has been done at 2,200 hectares against the target of 1,500 hectares.

About 25 farmers’ field schools are being constructed and 156 agriculture and 177 livestock extension workers were trained.

Out of a plantation target of 7,305 hectares in Swat, 5450 hectares have been achieved. Work on four trout fish farms worth Rs1.92mn has been completed or is in progress. On seven spurs work is complete and on others it is under progress. Work on 60 water channels worth Rs58.35mn is either completed, or is awaiting approval, it adds.

In the next phase, 10,000 hand compression sprayers and 500 power sprayers would be provided to farmers. Similarly, 10 biogas plants would be installed and 20 private fish farms opened in the area.

Khan claimed that short duration of the project, 2010 floods, insufficient availability of certified seeds, and restricted
movement of project staff were some of snags in the implementation of the project.

Abdul Jabbar Khan, president of association for protection of farmers and tillers’ rights district Swat, said farmers in the area had been devastated by militancy and floods and therefore needed support. “But what the Eralp offered was peanuts,” he says.

“Most of the work was done on the basis of nepotism and favouritism. For example out of 13 UCs in Matta, work was done only in two UCs -Sambhat and Arkuk- while the other areas stood totally neglected,” he adds.

As to allegations of nepotism and favouritism, Mr Sanaullah rejected them and said uniformity of coverage had been ensured in the project area.

Mr Jabbar rejected the project’s figures for wheat and said floods, non-availability and cost of inputs had in fact decreased wheat yield in the area.

“There is a need to establish genuine VOs and to allocate more money for reconstruction of the destroyed agriculture, irrigation and communication infrastructure and rehabilitation of farmers,” said Sahib Zaman, another farmer from Matta
Swat.

The upper Swat areas like Kalam, Uthror etc and other districts in Malakand division have been totally neglected. It seems some easily accessible areas have been focused at the cost of others. Sanaullah said that Eralp was working in the predefined
area as agreed with the donors at the designing stage.

“The Upper Swat area and other districts of Malakand Division were out of the project’s sphere that is why there were no project activities there. But if the donors/government provided us the requisite funds, the project could be extended.

Happily, the promised Rs200million would be utilised for the purpose,” an official said.

””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””’

Here is the original text of the article as it was sent to the paper.

Analysis of one year working of Eralp

By Tahir Ali

On the back of low utilisation of funds during the stipulated time and in realisation of its positive impact upon lives of farmers, the Rs800 million Italian government funded early recovery of agriculture and livestock project (Eralp) being implemented in of Swat by the provincial rehabilitation, reconstruction and settlement authority (PaRRSA) has been extended for another year and the project amount is being increased.

To spend the remaining Rs500mn project money and considering its progress, Eralp that was to finish by March this year, has been granted one year extension till March 2012 and PaRRSA has committed Rs200mn to spread its coverage to the entire Malakand division, sources said.

For the first year of Eralp, officials and farmers in the area have different claims on its effectiveness. While Sanaullah Khan, the project director, and Tariq Khan and Sher Bahadur, farmers from Swat, were all praise for the project, other farmers were critical of alleged nepotism and favouritism in the process of determination of target areas and the distribution of agricultural inputs and other benefits under the project.

Mr Khan said: “Restoration and enhancement of agriculture and livestock in the area, formation/revival of the 127 village male and 24 women organizations in the area, community empowerment, establishment of linkage between communities and government/service providers, capacity building of the stake holders, sense of ownership, accountability and transparency, environmental development through block community plantation/soil conservation and development of private nurseries, fish farming and diversification of livelihood options are some of the notable Eralp achievements thus far,” he said.

“Swat farmers harvest their wheat crops during July. According to a survey in 27 off 32 UCs in the area, per hectare yield has jumped by 266 per cent to 4 tons/ha from 1.5 tons/ha in 2009. This was inevitable as quality inputs were provided to farmers in appropriate quantities at proper time besides provision of technical guidance,” he stressed.

Official brief on the performance of Eralp during last year, says 63 tons of maize, 24 tons of peas, 235 tons of wheat, 640 tons of onion and around 10 tons of pulses seeds were distributed along with fertilizer. Separately, another 51 tons of DAP and 436 tons of urea were also provided to farmers. About 0.296mn plants out of the target of 0.4mn were also distributed to establish new orchards. And 10 poultry farms were established and around 5500 poultry units of chicks were provided to poor households in 32 union councils of Charbagh, Kabal, Khwazakhela and Matta tehsils of Swat and Dokdarra UC in Upper Dir.

In the livestock sector, against the 13000 animal vaccination target, 48000 were vaccinated. In the forestry sector, the target of 2.1 million plants reforestation has been crossed. Top working on 0.1mn olive trees against the target of 0.2mn was done. Block tree plantation has been done at 2200 hectares against the target of 1500 hectares.

25 farmers’ field schools are being constructed and 156 agriculture and 177 livestock extension workers were trained. 3 out of 20 private fish farms have been established and support to 2 fish farms out of 4 has been provided.

In the next phase, 10,000 hand compression sprayers and 500 power sprayers would be provided to farmers. Similarly, 10 biogas plants would be installed and 20 private fish farms opened in the area. And animal feed of around 3000 tons and over 40,000 molasses blocks would also be distributed, the documents reads.

“Out of a Swat plantation target of 7305 hectares, 5450 has been achieved. Work on 4 trout fish farms worth Rs1.92mn has been completed or is in progress. And work on 7 spurs has been completed, is in progress on 4 and on 16 the sanction is awaited. Again, work on 60 water channels worth Rs58.35mn is either completed, in progress or awaiting nod, it adds.

Khan agreed that short duration of the project, 2010 floods, insufficient availability of certified seeds, and restricted movement of project staff were some of the problems of the project.

Abdul Jabbar Khan, president of association for protection of farmers and tillers’ rights district Swat, said farmers in the area had been devastated by militancy and floods and therefore needed support.

“But what the Eralp offered was peanuts. What impact could the delivery of a package comprising two/three bags of fertiliser, 50 kg of seed and some other items to a small number of farmers have on the recovery of agriculture in the area which has hundreds of thousands of growers,” he says.

“But even these inputs were also not given to genuine farmers as no real farmers or village organisations were formed. My area still has none. Most of the work was done on the basis of nepotism and favouritism only in two UCs -Sambhat and Arkuk- off 13 UCs in Matta and other areas stand totally neglected,” he adds.

Mr Jabbar rejected the project’s figures for wheat and said floods and non availability and costliness of inputs had in fact decreased wheat yield in the areas.

Mr Sanaullah said Eralp adhered to its claim of increased outputs: “Since the project approach is participatory, these activities can be cross-checked with the 151 VOs/WOs as these VOs along with government line departments are partners in the project”.

“There is a need to establish genuine VOs and to allocate more money for reconstruction of the destroyed agriculture, irrigation and communication infrastructure and rehabilitation of farmers,” said Sahib Zaman, another farmer from Matta Swat.

As to allegations of nepotism and favouritism, Mr Sanaullah rejected them as baseless and said that decision on appointments, determination of areas, distribution of inputs and other project activities were taken strictly on merit by a broad based committee (comprising donors, establishment department and PaRRSA) as per government policy of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The upper Swat areas like Kalam, Uthror etc and other districts in Malakand division have been totally neglected. It seems some easily accessible areas have been focused at the cost of others. Sanaullah, however, said Eralp was working in the predefined area as agreed with the donors at the designing stage and uniformity of coverage had been ensured in the project area.

“The Upper Swat area and other districts of Malakand Division were out of the project’s sphere, so there were no project activities there. But if the donors/government provided us the requisite funds, the project could be extended. Happily, the promised Rs200mn would be utilised for the purpose,” an official said.

Potato growers’ woes

Potato cultivars

Image via Wikipedia

Frustrated potato growers of Swat

By Tahir Ali Khan

http://www.dawn.com/2011/08/08/frustrated-potato-growers-of-swat.html

WHILE potato growers in upper Swat had not yet recovered from the huge losses caused by the floods and militancy, the dilapidated communication infrastructure in the area is adding to their woes.

Most of the bridges destroyed by last year’s deluge have been temporarily restored but the road from Madyan to Kalam, the potato growing strip, is yet to be rebuilt. This has made transportation of the crop from Kalam and other upper Swat areas difficult, costly and unaffordable for growers.

Officials claimed that the reconstruction work would be finished within a year but the pace of work indicates it may take much longer for the actual completion. If the monsoon this year triggers floods again, access to upper Swat may become impossible.

Shah Abdar, president of model farm services centre, upper Swat, says the hilly cold terrain grows quality potato in abundance. “In areas which are accessible, the commodity fetches handsome returns to the farmers.” he said.

“Large size, good quality and taste are the hallmarks of Swat potato but the middlemen and commission agents reap most of the profits. Average per hectare yield of the crop in KP and the country is 12 and 17 metric tons respectively but it is around 20MT in Swat,” he added.

According to him, Kalam potato farmers had greatly benefited from the support and guidance offered by the Switzerland-funded Kalam integrated development project but communication problems are diminishing its impact.

Tor Gul, another potato farmer from Miandam, Swat, said the seeds-production ratio for potato was up to 1:10. “It means that one sack of potato seeds weighing 90kg produces about 900kg of potato and even more. An acre of potato crop yields around 360 maunds (14MT) in Swat,” he said.

Going by the current market price, an acre’s harvest can fetch up to Rs0.36 million for farmers. In the international market it could fetch $7,000 or Rs0.59mn (average price of $500 per metric ton).

To fetch a good price, the farmers in some areas like Miandam harvest their crop before maturity. However, it too has its related problems. “The potatoes so harvested are small, decay quickly and hence need to be used within weeks but nevertheless provide us the growers good returns. The more the delay, the lesser the price at the market,” says Gul.

Elsewhere overproduction, rather than under production, is the problem.

“Inadequate storage, processing facilities and the manipulation of the market by middlemen results in price volatility as not all excess production can be stored or processed for consumption during the off season. Sometimes there is surplus production that crashes prices at the market hitting the farmers and then there is limited supply that hits the common man with price increase. This can be avoided by proper bulk storage facility, regulated marketing system and efficient delivery of potato in the market,” another farmer Bakht Biland Khan, said.

Limited grading and labelling of the produce, absence of regulated local potato purchase along export facilitation centres and market information system are the other major problems faced by potato growers.

Despite favourable climatic conditions for the three potato crops, KP has a meagre share in countrywide potato yield. Its output was about 0.12 million tons from 10,000 hectares in 2010 against 3.4 million tons from 149,000 hectares in the country.The main potato producing areas in KP are Nowshera, Dir, Mansehra, Upper Swat, Chitral and Mardan. Potato crop is sown both in summer and winter in Swat with seeds obtained from Punjab.

An estimated 20 per cent potato is wasted post harvest primarily due to improper handling and lack of proper cold storage facilities. A survey report by a foreign agency has estimated that about 10 per cent reduction in post-harvest losses cane save Rs6 billion.

Potatoes are sold at around $500 per metric ton in the world market. Despite having export potential worth $1bn, Pakistan’s total potato exports were just $50 million in 2009.

Lack of credit facilities is the main snag for small growers. In some areas of Chitral this year, potato farmers were unable to buy standardised seed from the market as banks denied or delayed credit facilities.

………………

Original text of the article.

Dejected Swat potato growers

 

By Tahir Ali Khan

 

While potato farmers in upper Swat had not yet recovered from massive losses for the impacts of floods and militancy, the dilapidated communication infrastructure in the area is adding to their woes this season once again.

 

Though most of the bridges destroyed by last year’s deluge have been temporarily restored, the road from Madyan to Kalam, the potential potato growing strip, is yet to be rebuilt. This has made transportation of the potato produce from Kalam and other upper Swat areas highly difficult and costly, almost unaffordable for farmers.

 

Officials claim the reconstruction work would finish within a year but the pace and volume of the work suggests it may take three to four years to complete. And if this year’s rainy season triggers floods again, access to upper Swat may virtually come to a standstill.

 

Shah Abdar, the president of model farm services centre upper Swat, says the hilly cold terrain grows abundant quality potato. “In areas which are accessible, the commodity fetches handsome returns to the farmers. In the past, farmers in far off villages would bring their produce to the market using camels and donkeys but that has also become unfeasible as onward transportation from upper Swat is expensive beyond affordability, for transportation charges have quadrupled of late,” he said.

“There is vast potential for the crop. Large size and good taste and quality are the hallmarks of Swat potato but the middlemen and commission agents have reaped most of the profits. Average yield per hectare is 12 and 17 metric tons in KP and the country respectively but is around 20MT in Swat. But, for marketing snags, farmers prefer to grow only for their own needs and avoid commercial farming,” he added.

According to him, Kalam potato farmers had greatly benefited from the support and guidance offered by the Switzerland-funded Kalam integrated development project and farmers but communication problems are diminishing its impact now.

 

Tor Gul, another potato farmer from Miandam Swat, said the seeds-production ratio for potato was up to 1:10. “It means that one sac of potato seeds weighing 90kg produces about 900kg of potato and even beyond. And, an acre of potato crop yields around 360 maunds (14MT) in Swat,” he said.

 

Going by the current market price, it can fetch up to Rs0.36 million for farmers which is a hefty price by any standard.  And in the international market it could fetch $7000 or Rs0.59mn (on the basis of price of $500 per metric ton).

 

To fetch good price, the farmers in some areas like Miandam harvest their crop before maturity. But it too has its related problems.

 

“The potatoes so harvested are small, decay quickly and hence needs to be used within weeks but nevertheless they provide us good returns. The more there is delay, the lesser is the price at the market,” says Tor Gul.

 

Elsewhere overproduction, rather than under production, is the problem.

 

“The combination of inadequate storage and processing facilities and middlemen manoeuvres lead to volatility in prices as not all excess production can be stored or processed for consumption during the off season. Sometimes there is surplus production and supply that crashes prices at the market hitting the farmers and then there is limited supply that hits the common man with price increase. This can be avoided by bulk storage facility, regulated marketing system and efficient delivery of potato in the market,” Bakht Biland Khan, another farmer, said.

 

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in general and Swat in particular has not been able to exploit the potato potential. Escalated cost of production, non-availability of quality potato seeds, poor post-harvest handling and lack of value addition and of modern plants of potato by-products in the province are hindering the process.

 

Besides, limited grading and labelling of produce, the absence of regulated local potato purchase centres, potato export facilitation centres and market information system are the other woes of potato growers.

 

Despite being tax-free zone and hub of industries, the lack of potato processing units, one that could produce potato chips or frozen French fries, is amazing to the say the least.

 

A multinational company, according to a report, had agreed to install a potato chips unit in Swat but the facility is no where seen thus far.

 

Despite having favourable climatic conditions for all the three potato crops, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has meagre share in country-wide potato yield. It yielded about 0.12 million tons from 10 thousand hectares in 2010 against 3.4 million tons from 149,000 hectares in the country.

Main potato producing areas in KP are Nowshera, Dir, Mansehra, Upper Swat, Chitral and Mardan. Potato crop is sown both in summer and winter in Swat. Seeds in obtained from Punjab.

An estimated 20% of potato quality is wasted post harvest primarily due to improper handling and lack of proper cold storage facilities.  A survey report by a foreign agency has estimated that about 10 percent reduction in post-harvest losses means savings of Rs6 billion.

 

Potato has large potential for the province and the country. Potatoes are sold at around $500 per metric ton in the global market. Despite having potential of exports worth $1bn, Pakistan’s total potato exports were just $50 million in 2009.

 

The lack of credit facilities are one of the main problems for small farmers. In some areas of Chitral this year, potato farmers were reportedly unable to buy standardised seed from the market for the banks denied or delayed credit facility to them.

The provincial horticulture policy says nonexistence of producers and marketing associations and market committees, non-exploration of new markets, and traditional outdated delivery systems of horticulture produce as the biggest constraints of the sector.

It recommends setting up of agriculture producers markets and market information systems at the district level and urges for quality grades for vegetables and to establish training institute for productivity and quality enhancement with funding from the export development fund.

The government should provide tax holidays for the first five years to encourage processing industries and ensure launch of specials schemes for development of modern horticulture enterprises in private sector in the province.

Swat: The way forward

Batkhela Bazaar (Off Day)

Image via Wikipedia

Swat: what’s the way forward?

The area needs a lot more attention now than what it needed before

By Tahir Ali

http://www.jang.com.pk/thenews/jul2011-weekly/nos-24-07-2011/pol1.htm#3

During my visit to Swat last month, I talked to many people in Batkhela, Chakdara, Mingora, Madyan, Bahrain and Miandam. Not only in Swat but elsewhere too, lack of scientific approach, jumping to conclusions created by widely-held conspiracy theories and an acute absence of dialogue between the public and the establishment are not only hampering development of mutual trust but harming efforts to develop national consensus on anti-terrorism strategy.

There is military presence but other than several check-posts where military or police personnel register and identity destination of tourists, there is nothing uncommon. Hoteliers are required to register particulars of the guests and military vehicles patrol the roads casually. I think that presence of security is natural as Swat has been under tumultuous conditions for years. There is simply no room for complacency and negligence here.

Many people in Swat acknowledge that extremists’ ability to occupy an area has been crushed but say they could stage a comeback anytime as their leadership has not been arrested or killed and those arrested have not been accounted so far. The fear is so pervasive that no one is ready to come on record against either of the parties.

Conflict of opinion is bound to occur in a problem where human beings with different backgrounds and analytical capability are involved. Conformity by all to official or militant account is impossible and the objective should be unity in diversity in an environment that allows freedom of thought and dissent encourages dialogue and avoids equating those with genuine reservations on the role and strategy of establishment with the anti-state elements.

If there are loopholes in the official account, the account of war on terror of the men in the street in Swat is no different from the rest of Pakistan where conflicting, often ridiculous, conspiracy theories are embraced as facts and opinions are formed on their basis.

As elsewhere, there is considerable confusion on the causes of the problem. To some Swatis, Taliban and terrorism are the products of Pakistan’s pro-American foreign policy but they also blame Mossad, RAW, CIA or Black Water for these acts. Again, many believe Taliban wanted to create state within the state, had the blessings of foreign agencies and the state did the right thing to crush them.

But some also accuse the civil and military establishment of being too lenient initially and narrate how the army and police stood silent when the Taliban killed the people. Yet, others exonerate them and think it was the negligence, inaction or purposeful silence of the MMA-led provincial government that provided the space and opportunity to the militants to expand their area of influence.

Many others admit they had committed the mistake of siding with the insurgents — near revolt-like situation in 1994 led by Sufi Muhammad, and the 2007-9 uprising led by Fazlullah.

Some Swat people are unhappy over the establishment’s double standards on counter-terrorism strategy. “In Pakhtun areas challengers of state’s writ are crushed while those in Punjab, which is more significant for Pakistan’s stability than the former, are tolerated and their extremist ideology is allowed to flourish,” says a man in his 40s, not wanting to be identified.

A few point out how the militants managed to collect huge quantities of sophisticated weapons and established training centres. Many think it strange that with so much patrolling and many security checkposts around, militants are still able to attack. “Where did the terrorists come from and go? There were hundreds of militants according to official estimates, tell us how many have been killed or captured,” says a resident from Chakdara.

Many others are thankful to the army and say army presence has saved many lives and properties from falling prey to mutual enmities created by suspicions of spying in the area. First, the Taliban killed many for being pro-establishment and then security agencies hunted the ‘anti-state’ actors and their abettors. The victims and their families in both cases thought someone in the neighbourhood to have spied on them. This created many local enmities.

Some people in the area think terrorists are being used as puppets by ‘agencies’ to take dollars and justify the huge/permanent military presence in the area. What struck me the most was that this mindset was even held by apparently educated people.

The state and its security apparatus needs to open up and allow dissent in its interactions with the people. Special teams of teachers and psychologists accompanied by men from civil and military agencies should visit seminaries and schools in the area and allow open questioning of their narrative. This way they would be able to apprise themselves of the real mindset of the people.

There should be no doubt that most of the insurgents have used lack of speedy justice to attract people to their agenda. Most of the Taliban cadres comprised young minds who are susceptible to violent agenda. They should be taught that reformation of societies through violent and militant ways results in more loss and acute anarchy in their midst. De-radicalisation programme for militant youngsters and their families is good but it needs to be replicated in Punjab.

The solution to the problems lies in our patient and judicious approach to problems, an equitable distribution of wealth in society, poverty alleviation and job opportunities.

The state should try to build a consensus against militancy in the country. The concept of ‘bad’ or ‘good’ militants needs to be given up. The political class should offer dialogue and amnesty to militants if they are ready to lay down arms and submit to the writ of the state.

The writer is a freelance journalist who blogs at:

https://tahirkatlang.wordpress.com

Following is the text of the article in original ( as I had sent it to the paper)

Analysis of the situation in Swat

Time for public-military open dialogue

By Tahir Ali

Asim Sajjad Akhtar in these pages last week analysed the situation in Swat. During my visit to Swat last month, I talked to numerous persons in Batkhela, Chakdara, Mingora, Madyan, Bahrain and Miandam. In the light of what I saw and ascertained, some of his observations on the effects of the catastrophe, the profound suspicions, unanswered questions and fear amongst the people, on the lack of any meaningful critique in Pakistan on the war on terror and that before taking any position on ‘war on terror’ one should visit Swat and see the long-term consequences of war on ordinary Swatis could be endorsed, but one cannot completely agree with his assertions that army loathes everyone else there, including the police, and that there are irreconcilable holes in the official account of the war on terror.

Not only in Swat but at the national scene too, lack of scientific attitude, our national malady of jumping to conclusions, suspicions created by widely-held conspiracy theories, and an acute absence of open dialogue and of liaison between the public and establishment are not only hampering development of much needed mutual trust but harming efforts to develop national consensus on anti-terrorism strategy.

There is military presence but not that much as is suggested. Other than the several check-posts where military or police personnel register the identity and destination of tourists, there is nothing uncommon. Hoteliers are required to register the particulars of the guests and military vehicles patrol the roads casually. I think that much care and security is natural as Swat has been under tumultuous conditions for years. There is simply no room for complacency and negligence here.

Their attitude with the public at large is not that bad either, provided you obey the rules or cooperate.

Many Swatis acknowledge that extremists’ ability to occupy an area has been crushed, but say they could stage a comeback anytime as their leadership has not been arrested nor killed and those arrested have not been accounted so far. The fear is so pervasive that no one is ready to come on record against neither of the parties.

Conflict of opinion is bound to occur in a problem where human beings with different backgrounds and analytical capability are involved. Conformity by all to official or militant account is impossible and the objective should be unity in diversity in an environment that allows freedom of thought and dissent, encourages dialogue and avoids equating those with genuine reservations on the role and strategy of establishment with the anti-state elements.

To me, just as patriotism is not confined to conforming to official version alone, liberalism and objectivity also cannot be equalised with attacking the state policies at any cost. Unfortunately it has been.

If there are loopholes in official account, the account of war on terror of the men in the street in Swat is no different from the rest of Pakistan where conflicting, often ridiculous, conspiracy theories are embraced as facts and opinions are formed on their basis.

As elsewhere, there is considerable confusion on the causes of the problem. To some Swatis, Taliban and terrorism are the products of Pakistan’s pro-American foreign policy but they also blame Mossad, RAW, CIA or Black Water for these acts. Again many believe Taliban wanted to create state within the state, had the blessings of foreign agencies and the state did the right thing to crush them. But some also accuse the civil and military establishment of being too lenient initially and narrate how the army and police stood silent when in their eyesight, the Taliban butchered the people. Yet others exonerate them and think it were the negligence, inaction or purposeful silence of the MMA-led provincial government that provided the space and opportunity to the militants to expand their area of influence and increase their power and resources. Yet many others admit they had committed the mistakes of siding with the insurgents quite a few times- 1890s insurgency of Mad-mulla against the British, near revolt-like situation in 1989 and 94 led by Sufi Muhammad and the 2007-9 uprising led by Fazlullah, for example.

Some Swatis are unhappy over the establishment’s double standards on the counter-terrorism strategy. “In Pakhtun areas –like Swat and tribal areas– challengers of state’s writ are crushed while those in Punjab, which is more significant for Pakistan’s stability than the former, are tolerated and their extremist ideology is allowed to flourish,” a man in his 40s said.

A few point out how the militants managed to collect huge quantities of sophisticated weapons and established training centres and think it strange that with so much patrolling and many security checkposts around the militants are still able to come and attack. “Where did the terrorists come from and go? There were hundreds of militants according to official estimates but please tell us how many have been killed or captured,” said a chakdara resident.

They need to be reminded that army and police need authorisation for attack which was not there until the incumbent ANP-led government gave it a go-ahead. They need to be reminded that despite success of the operation, militants would continue their intermittent strikes for years to come. After all, you cannot man all entrances and stop those all the time who want to attack.

Many are thankful to the army and say the army presence has saved many lives and properties from falling prey to mutual enmities created by suspicions of spying in the area. “First the Taliban killed many for being pro-establishment and then the security agencies hunted the ‘anti-state’ actors and their abettors. The victims and their families in both cases thought someone in the neighbourhood to have spied on them. This created many local enmities. Enmities in Pakhtoon societies go on for generations. Time is the best healer but I think it may take around 25-30 years to heal the wounds created by mutual suspicions or actual wrongs,” according to a teacher.

There were some hardliners who at first said there were no militants and when confronted, opined they were the agents of the establishment and those killed are no more than official sacrifices for a ‘greater national cause’ They thought terrorists are being used as puppets by ‘agencies’ to take dollars and justify the huge/permanent military presence in the area.  What struck me the most was that this profound suspicious mindset was even held by apparently educated fellows. They also need to be addressed. But the mainstream reconcilable population badly needs special sessions with open questioning to erase their suspicions before it is taken in by the propaganda in the streets and family functions.

The state and its security operatus needs to open up and encourage dissent with its stance in its interactions with the people. Special teams of teachers and psychologists accompanied by men from civil and military agencies should visit seminaries and schools in the area and allow open questioning of their narrative. This way they would be able to apprise themselves of the real mindset of the people rather than the taken-for-granted-consensus against militants.

There should be no doubt that most of the insurgents have used the lack of speedy, easily and locally available justice to attract people to their agenda.

 

Most of the Taliban cadres comprised young minds who are susceptible to any violent agenda for their nascent minds and needs to be separated and saved from the groups that arouse their emotions and keep them from pursuing education. They should be taught that reformation of societies through violent and militant ways results in more loss, less advantage and acute anarchy in their midst.

 

The de-radicalisation programme for militant youngsters and their families is good but it needs to be replicated in Punjab.

 

In Swat recently, Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani rightly insisted on the need to fight the “political, psychological or religious” trends which lead to radicalism. Solution to the problems lies in our non-reactionary, patient and judicious approach to world problems, an equitable distribution of wealth in society, poverty alleviation and job opportunities, a robust and big middle class, rule of law, interfaith harmony and saying goodbye to emotionalism and puritanical approach and non-interference in the affairs of other states.

The state should try to build an anti-private jihad consensus in the country. The concept of ‘bad’ or ‘good’ militants needs to be given up. The political class should offer dialogue and amnesty to militants if they are ready to lay down arms and submit to the writ of the state. Religious-political parties and scholars must discourage militancy.

The writer is a freelance columnist who blogs at:

https://tahirkatlang.wordpress.com

marketing of Swat onion

Red onions

Image via Wikipedia

Depressed onion prices in Swat

By Tahir Ali Khan

Dawn- July 4, 2011

http://www.dawn.com/2011/07/04/agriculture-and-technology-depressed-onion-prices-in-swat.html

Swat accounts for 3/4th of the onion harvest of the province. Malakand division, especially Swat and Dir, produced about 108,000 tons of onion in 2006.

 

Farmers say regulated markets, local onion purchase centres, improved transportation of the produce to other provinces and export facilitation centres are needed to help them get fair price for their crop.

 

Swat onions are liked for their big size, appetising taste and better quality, but farmers say the middlemen and commission agents are taking bulk of the profit.

 

Lower prices have compelled farmers to delay their harvest and sales in the hope of better return. While a few of them can afford to keep their harvest in self-owned or rented godowns, most dump onion in their fields in the open.

 

In Swat and Dir, one can see a lot of these onion-dumps in fields, hujras and in front of houses. A hailstorm or rain and humidity could damage the harvested crop.

 

“The commission agents in Gujranwala promise us good returns and say a bag fetches Rs900-1100. But when we reach there, we find the price at Rs600 per bag. A truckload of 200 bags of onion can fetch up to Rs120,000 while our total expenses on the same quantity of onion comes to around Rs150,000,” says Daud Khan, a farmer near Mingora in lower Swat.

 

The onion price, he says, is not sufficient even to cover his expenses on cultivation, farm-rent and transportation etc. “I have taken land on lease for Rs0.3 million per annum from a local landlord, and spent another Rs0.11mn on labour and other inputs on the crop. An amount of Rs50,000 per trip have been spent on transportation and other expenses. I will have to make at least six trips so the total amount in this head alone comes to around Rs0.3 million. My total onion production comes to around 1,200 bags each weighing 90kg. It means I will earn not more than Rs0.72 million at the present market price. This is exactly what I have spent on the crop. There is no profit for me despite toiling for months. How can I sell my crop at this rate,” he said.

 

“The problem is that we cannot delay our harvesting and deals for long as the field and truck are to be emptied for new crops and to avoid inflated trucks fares which increases if offloading is delayed. Then there is the problem of security and rent in the market. Rains also are a constant threat as the commodity lies in the open which could be destroyed by ground moisture or insects. So the farmers have to sell their produce willy-nilly at lower rates,” he adds.

 

“Isn’t it unjust that the farmers are being paid only Rs6 per kg while the commodity is being sold at not less than Rs30-40kg in the market? Shouldn’t the government stop this injustice by commission agents and ensure a better price for farmers,” adds Khan.

 

“The government says it will create linkage between market and Swat farmers but has failed to ensure fair price for our produce. Agriculture in the region has been badly affected first by militancy and then by flash-floods but local farmers are yet to be given proper support,” he complains.

 

The provincial horticulture policy 2009 recommends setting up of agriculture producers’ markets and market information systems at district level.

 

Local farmers are compelled to take their onion to Punjab to get better prices. The problem can be solved by establishing regulated local markets and opening onion purchase centres in different parts of upper and lower Swat and Dir in the public, private sector or through public-private partnership.

 

Transportation of onion could be facilitated by arranging special goods-train from Dargai in Malakand where existing railway lines mostly lie unused.

 

Onion farmers would benefit if some waterproof packaging is introduced to minimise crop losses and facilitate export.

 

THE onion farmers in Swat are not getting reasonable returns for their crop due to absence of a modern market system in the province. Despite a bumper onion crop this year, they have not fully benefited from the harvest.

Improving marketing in Malakand

Mountains in the Swat Valley of the NWFP of Pa...

Image via Wikipedia

Linking growers with corporate buyers

By Tahir Ali Khan

Dawn April 18, 2011

Initiatives to improve horticulture output and marketing links of local farmers with local and foreign firms have been launched in Malakand division under the provincial reconstruction, rehabilitation and settlement programme.

The area, especially Swat, produces quality vegetables and fruits. It accounts for 34 per cent of plums, 95 per cent of walnuts and 82 per cent of provincial apple yield.

It also accounts for 64 and over 50 per cent of the provincial production of vegetables and fruits respectively. But farmers do not fully benefit from their crops for lack of finances, expertise and marketing linkages.

Shakil Qadir Khan, Director General of Parrsa, said his organisation was trying to help improve quality and value addition, standardise packaging and create modern marketing practices for the produce.

“We are not only providing advice, cash and in kind support to develop quality of indigenous fruits and vegetables but also helping growers find new markets for their products by creating liaison between them and local and multinational companies,” he said.

Last year, Pepsi-Cola Pakistan made a potato purchase deal of 350 tons with Swat farmers. But because of the devastating floods and resultant losses to potato crop and damage to communication network, the company could lift only 35 tons of the crop and that too by helicopters. Once linkages are established, these will be promoted and extended to other crops creating opportunities for modernisation of agriculture and increasing income of local farmers considerably.”

Khan said another $12 million package for agriculture was to be launched soon. “We have also approached various local firms and multinationals for the purchase of Swat apples, peaches, and apricots. If they agree, they are welcome. If they disapprove, we would request them to come and guide local farmers to produce quality fruits acceptable to them. We would provide them financial support for the purpose. The companies can send their experts for development of horticulture.

This will be a public-private partnership financed by Parrsa. Norway has expressed its desire to purchase local peaches but the fruit will have to be ISO certified.

Apple growers and market men were encouraged to shift to attractive paper-packaging instead wooden crates. The application improved sales tremendously,” Khan said.

Citing another intervention, he said, Swat produced approximately 60 tons of trout fish in its 22 farms which was mostly consumed locally. Last July`s floods ravaged most of these hatcheries.

“Parrsa plans to provide marketing support to fish hatcheries to sell their produce to big food-chain restaurants both within and without the country. Trout decomposes fast when taken out of water. However, there are means to keep the fish fresh and transport it to farthest areas without fear of decomposition. Using the required technology and giving a new brand name like Swat/Kalam trout to the species in the market, the number of hatcheries in Swat could be increased to 200 in a year`s time,” he hoped.

In the first phase, Parrsa would arrange for the technology and provide information and financial support to fish farmers. “Later they would manage it themselves. If farmers are introduced to new technology, services and strategies and they know their utility, they would manage it next year themselves.”

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