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Agriculture research council on verge of collapse.

ISLAMABAD -- The agriculture sector is said to be the backbone of Pakistan's economy. But it is on the verge of collapse due to failure to conduct necessary research.

This sector has not been treated like an industry. Farmers are following the old conventional way of farming, which has resulted in low yields over the past several years.

The pro-industry Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) era was the worst for the sector when the country faced the lowest cotton production in history and the agriculture sector recorded a negative growth.

With the new government in power, the farmers voiced hope some measures would be taken to address their grievances. However, nothing has changed due to the bureaucracy that has control over a body formed to conduct research in the agriculture sector to enhance crop yields.

The Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (Parc) is an autonomous apex research organisation established under the Parc Ordinance 1981. However, this body is on the verge of collapse due to interference in its affairs.

The Parc chairman, being the chief executive of the council, should have exceptional capabilities, competency to plan and pursue national agricultural agenda, lead the team of agricultural scientists in various disciplines and help in implementation of the food security policy at the highest level.

The Parc chairman also represents the country at different national and international forums. As per the Parc Reforms Agenda 2007-08 approved by the prime minister, Parc is bound to do merit-based recruitments and performance-based promotions. As per Section 5 of the Parc Ordinance 1981, the federal government has no role in the affairs of Parc, except for policy decisions. The same was endorsed by the attorney general of Pakistan before the division bench of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in a case of 269 illegal appointments and reinstatements.

Due to the intervention of bureaucrats of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research in its macro and micro-level management affairs, Parc has to sustain a loss in terms of its reputation, administrative and financial resources.

Instead of obeying the IHC verdict, dated June 12, 2019 in the case of 269 illegally appointed and unlawfully reinstated employees by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government (2008-10), the food ministry has appointed a non-scientist as Parc chairman to protect the illegal appointees.

Due to non-implementation of the IHC verdict, the council has to sustain a loss of millions of rupees on a monthly basis on account of salaries and allowances for these appointees. The matter of 269 illegal appointments and reinstatements has already been taken up by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), which is at final stages of filing a reference.

Parc is facing a budgetary deficit of about Rs1.5 billion to meet pension liabilities and salaries/allowances of employees. More than 150 pensioners have been waiting for service benefits and medical facilities since March 2018, but bureaucrats in the administrative ministry are trying to protect the illegal appointees.

Section 9 of the Parc Ordinance 1981 says, 'The President of Pakistan shall appoint an eminent scientist connected with agriculture' to the post of Parc chairman.

Parc senior scientist has challenged the appointment of a non-scientist chairman in court, which has sought explanation from the federal government for not appointing an eligible scientist in terms of aforesaid section of the Parc Ordinance 1981.

Research activities at Parc's largest research wing - National Agricultural Research Council (Narc) - are on the verge of closing down for want of funds, quality manpower and incompetent chairman, who lacks required qualification, experience and expertise.

The prime minster has constituted a three-member committee, headed by Member Prime Minister Inspection Commission Waqar Ahmed, this month and Parc scientists are looking towards it for saving the council from total collapse and restoring its mandate, autonomy and research activities. The institution has been handed over to bureaucrats who are damaging it. It is right time for the prime minister to take action to clean the mess so that this institution could contribute to the agricultural economy.
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Publication:The Express Tribune (Karachi, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Aug 26, 2019
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