Captured Indian pilot’s return showed Pakistan’s 'mature response' — military

Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) director general Maj. Gen. Babar Iftikhar speaks during a press conference at the Pakistan Army headquarters in Rawalpindi on Feb. 27, 2020. (Photo courtesy: ISPR/File)
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Updated 30 October 2020

Captured Indian pilot’s return showed Pakistan’s 'mature response' — military

  • Major General Babar Iftikhar responds to an opposition politician who claimed the government released the prisoner due to fear of war
  • The spokesman says Pakistan gave India a ‘bloody nose’ that still hurts

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan released an Indian pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, after shooting down his fighter jet during an aerial dogfight over Kashmir in February 2019 to give peace a chance in the region, said the chief of the military’s media wing on Thursday, adding it was “misleading and disappointing” to attribute the country’s decision to anything but its “mature response” as a responsible state.
The statement of Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (DG ISPR) Major General Babar Iftikhar came a day after former National Assembly speaker and senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Sardar Ayaz Sadiq said that the government had released the Indian pilot due to fear of an imminent attack from India.
“A statement was given yesterday that tried to distort facts related to a national security issue,” Iftikhar said without naming anyone. “I am here to set the record straight.”
Addressing a news conference with “one-point agenda,” he said that Pakistan’s armed forces displayed their ability to respond to “Indian aggression” last year before releasing the captured pilot in accordance with the Geneva Convention.
“We gave them a bloody nose and it is still hurting,” he said while referring to Pakistan’s response to India’s violation of its airspace in February last year.
The former National Assembly speaker claimed on Wednesday that the government had asked parliamentary leaders to let Abhinandan go, predicting an attack from the country’s nuclear-armed neighbor.
However, Sadiq issued a clarification on Thursday, saying that Indian media was “misreporting” his statement.
Alluding to his words in the National Assembly, the DG ISPR said that the negative narrative was “directly affecting the national security” of Pakistan, adding that India was taking full advantage of it.
“This narrative is being used to minimize India’s defeat and loss,” he said. “It also amounts to creating undue controversy around Pakistan’s clear supremacy and victory over India, and I think this is not acceptable to any Pakistani.”
Asked about recent statements of opposition leaders against the military leadership, he said the armed forces were an organized institution and its rank and file could not be separated.
“No one can create differences between the rank and file of the armed forces,” he said. “There is complete unity and it will continue to remain that way.”
An 11-party opposition alliance, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), has accused the security establishment of meddling in politics and helping Prime Minister Imran Khan’s rise to power in the 2018 general elections.
“This political polarization will continue. It will increase. There may emerge a situation where there is a severe constitutional crisis,” Adnan Rehmat, a political analyst, told Arab News. “The opposition would never have targeted state institutions if the government had not subjected its leaders to undue and unfair pressure.”



PML-N leaders, however, denied that they wanted a clash with any institution to make political gains.
“Our protests and struggle against the government is purely democratic and constitutional. We don’t intend to clash with our state institutions,” Malik Abrar Ahmed, a senior PML-N leader, told Arab News.
The country’s army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, also held a meeting with the prime minister on Thursday to discuss “professional matters pertaining to Pakistan Army, internal and external security situation,” according to the PM Office.

Breakthrough project in Sindh turns Pakistan into palm oil producing country

Updated 48 min 3 sec ago

Breakthrough project in Sindh turns Pakistan into palm oil producing country

  • Oil content of palm fruit from Sindh's plantation in Thatta is 2 percent higher than the world average
  • Pakistan consumes 4.5 million tons of edible oil a year, of which some 90 percent is imported, mainly from Malaysia and Indonesia

KARACHI: Pakistan’s southeastern Sindh province has successfully completed a pilot oil palm cultivation and extraction project, putting the country on the list of palm oil producers. 
An oil extraction facility at the site of the pilot oil palm plantation in the province’s southern Thatta district produced its first oil last week. The development is seen as a breakthrough for the South Asian nation which is heavily dependent on palm oil imports.

“The palm oil extraction is being done as a test run at the moment and the results are wonderful and very encouraging,” Muhammad Aslam Ghouri, secretary of Sindh’s Environment, Climate Change and Coastal Development which is running the project, told Arab News on Friday.

The Rs25 million ($157,000) pilot project started in 2016 on 50 acres of coastal land. 

“In 2016, Malaysian experts came here and they studied everything including soil and environment and they certified that the fruit is very good,” Ghouri said. “The oil content of the palm fruit is 2 percent higher than the world average.” 

The site of a pilot oil palm plantation in Sindh's Thatta district on July 24, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Sindh's Environment, Climate Change and Coastal Development)

The yield from the fertile soil is also encouraging as even 60 palm trees can be grown on each acre.

Pakistan consumes around 4.5 million tons of edible oil a year, of which some 90 percent is imported, mainly from Malaysia and Indonesia — the world’s biggest producers of the commodity.

While the Thatta oil extraction facility can produce only up to two tons of oil a day, Ghouri believes the reliance on imports can be greatly reduced if the Sindh project is expanded.

Seeing the project as a “game changer” for the province and country, the Sindh government has already allocated an additional 1,600 acres for palm cultivation, which it further plans to expand to 3,000 acres. 

Ghouri said that ECC&CD has already invited farmers and private firms to show the “success story” and encourage them to invest and join the industry.
“Seeing the success of this pilot project we can safely say that in future when there is investment in this sector, private parties come in to start palm plantation and invest in oil extraction mills as we have shown that it can be done. Then this (less reliance on imports) can happen.”

An oil palm from Sindh's plantation in Thatta on July 24, 2020. The oil content of the plantation's palm fruit is 2 percent higher than the world average. (Photo courtesy: Sindh's Environment, Climate Change and Coastal Development)

Oil traders, however, say that there is a long way ahead before Pakistan will be able to offset the imports of the staple commodity. 
“It is a step in the right direction that has a potential to substitute palm oil imports and save foreign exchange, but it would take time to make any meaningful contribution as the country imports on an average 100,000 tons of palm oil per month,” Ismail Wali, an oil trader at Jodia Bazaar in Karachi, told Arab News.
Farmers are less enthusiastic as they remember a similar initiative being undertaken in 1996 to develop the country’s vast coastal belt into an oil palm cultivation hub. For two decades the project was neglected, causing huge losses. 
“We had imported expensive samplings of palm and planted over an area of 400 acres in Mirpur Sakro, Thatta district,” Mumrez Khan, a former oil palm farmer, told Arab News.

“We had to abandon the plantation in 2009 due to lack of support and required guidance from the government.”