In Pakistan’s olive-rich tribal areas, lone oil plant begins operations

Locals in Bajaur district pack olives for onward delivery to the processing plant on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 (Photo credit: Bajaur agriculture extension department)
Updated 28 October 2019

In Pakistan’s olive-rich tribal areas, lone oil plant begins operations

  • Olive oil derived from improved plant varieties is intended for export by next year, officials say
  • Local olive farmers in the region are looking to cash in on the increase in interest and demand

PESHAWAR: The first ever olive processing plant set up in a Pakistani tribal district, in a region that borders Afghanistan, has started producing olive oil, the top district administrator said on Thursday.
Wild olive plants grow in the millions in the erstwhile tribal regions, but until about a decade ago, these plants had little commercial value and were used mainly for timber and fire-wood.
But following the grafting of 150,000 wild olive plants into cultivars, an artificially bred and improved variety of the plant, the olive oil processing plant in Bajaur is now in business. The cultivars are created through grafting, where a single bud from a desirable tree is slipped into the bark on a small seedling to produce farmer-friendly varieties of the plant that are resistant to diseases, have a low juvenile period and a longer fruiting life.

Olive fruits picked and ready for processing at Bajaur’s oil processing plant on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 (Photo credit: Bajaur agriculture extension department) 

“Oil production has started but in low quantity. I hope from next year, oil production will increase for commercial purposes,” Muhammad Usman Mehsud, deputy commissioner of Bajaur, told Arab News, and added that efforts had been intensified to begin exporting the oil from next year.
“The agriculture extension department intends to graft 1.6 million wild olive groves through improved olive varieties. Right now, we have up to 6,000 grafted olive plants bearing fruit,” he said.

Bottles of refined olive oil labelled “Bajaur Olive Oil,” on display, from the district’s first oil processing plant. Oct. 22, 2019 (Photo credit: Bajaur agriculture extension department)  

Olives, known locally as Zaintoon or Khuna, have 30 different species and a life span of between 900 to 1,000 years. According to experts in Pakistan, they are one of the world’s most drought resistant trees and thrive well where annual average rainfall is between 900 to 1,000 mm without irrigation.
Of the grafted olive species, 30,000 olive plants are already bearing fruit, Zia-ul-Islam Dawar, the district agriculture officer, told Arab News.
“One olive plant produces 60 to 70 kg of oil, while the processing plant has the capacity to produce 200 kg of oil per hour,” he said and added that his department planned on grafting wild olive groves under a government scheme known as the ‘Promotion of Olive Cultivation for Oil Production in Bajaur.’

Pickled olives from Bajaur’s first ever olive processing plant. Oct. 22, 2019 (Photo credit: Bajaur agriculture extension department) 

“The agriculture department has established new orchards on 160 acres of land in the district under various developmental schemes in the year 2018-19,” Dawar said, and added that the farmers too, are looking to cash in on the increase in business in the region.
One liter of olive oil costs approximately Rs. 1,600 ($10) in the open market.
Shah Khalid, a tribal elder and farmer, said the district’s tribesmen were enthusiastically participating in the planting and development of olive cultivars due to the increase in demand in local as well as international markets.

A bottle of olive oil, a product of Bajaur’s lone oil processing plant. Oct. 22, 2019. (Photo credit: Bajaur agriculture extension department) 

“More and more farmers are now inclined to establish olive orchards in Bajaur because they know about its skyrocketing price. I suggest the government should declare Bajaur Pakistan’s olive valley to spur a revolution in the economy and to woo more growers and investors,” Khalid said.
Parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the newly-merged tribal districts have conducive agro-climatic conditions for olive plantation, with 36,000 million wild olive trees growing in Pakistan’s mountainous tribal areas, he said.
Olive oil is used in Pakistan and around the world for cooking, eating, confectionary, cosmetics and for its many health benefits.

Pakistani jailed for Dutch anti-Islam MP murder plot

Updated 18 November 2019

Pakistani jailed for Dutch anti-Islam MP murder plot

  • A Dutch court found the 27-year-old guilty of ‘planning a murder with a terrorist motive’
  • The judge added four years in jail to the six years sought by the prosecution

THE HAGUE: A Dutch court sentenced a Pakistani man to 10 years behind bars Monday for planning to assassinate a politician Geert Wilders after the MP announced an anti-Islam cartoon competition.
The man, identified as Junaid I. by local media, was arrested in August 2018 at a train station in The Hague after he posted a film on Facebook in which he said he wanted to “send Wilders to hell” and urged others to help.
Judges at The Hague’s district court found the 27-year-old man, who had traveled from France, guilty of “planning a murder with a terrorist motive” and “incitement to commit a terrorist deed.”
“The suspect more than once said that Wilders’ death would be a good deed,” said presiding judge Jan van Steen, who added four years in jail to the six years sought by the prosecution.
“Furthermore, the suspect wanted to commit the murder in one of the parliamentary buildings, the heart of Dutch democracy,” Van Steen said, adding “the court is alarmed that the suspect... declared that this case will boost his image in Pakistan.”
The suspect had denied any terror-related motives.
He said during the trial that he was “peace-loving” and had only traveled to the Netherlands from France to protest against Wilders’ cartoon competition.
The Facebook video was seen by more than 153,000 people and shared 14,000 times.
Far-right leader Wilders canceled his plans two days later to stage a cartoon competition against the Prophet of Islam, a move that angered many Muslims, particularly in Pakistan where protests were led by the hard-line Islamist Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan party.
Wilders, 56, known for his peroxide bouffant hairdo and firebrand anti-immigration and anti-Islamist statements, lives in a safe house and has been granted 24-hour protection by the Dutch state.
The court did not say how Junaid I. planned to kill Wilders but found that in a bugged phone call after his arrest he said he took “specific things with him... without which his mission would not be complete.”
He had also walked round with a “large backpack, which he did not have when he was arrested” and lied about what it contained, the judges said.
A day after Wilders announced the cancelation, an Afghan man stabbed two American tourists at Amsterdam’s main train station. The man, who said he wanted to “protect the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH),” was last month sentenced to 26 years in jail.