After beating floods, one man in Sindh adopts ‘paradoxical farming’ to increase crop yield

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The collage of image shows the farmer Bhom Singh Sodho showing his produce in Umerkot, Pakistan, on November 17, 2022. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)
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This picture shows an agricultural land which is still submerged by flood water in Umerkot, Pakistan, on November 17, 2022. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)
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Updated 03 December 2022
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After beating floods, one man in Sindh adopts ‘paradoxical farming’ to increase crop yield

  • Farmer named Bhom Singh Sodho uses organic method that combines raised bed cropping and hardpan breaking
  • Method was pioneered by a local agronomist and is now being promoted by Pakistan’s planning commission

UMERKOT: At a time when Pakistan is reeling from major agricultural losses due to worst-ever floods this summer that washed away thousands of acres of crops, a man in the southern Sindh says he is earning substantial cotton, sugarcane, and vegetable crop yields by using an innovative farming method that promises massive profits for agriculturalists.

Paedar Qudrati Nizam-e-Kashtkari (PQNK) – a term sometimes described as “paradoxical farming” – was pioneered in 2008 by a Lahore-based agronomist, Asif Sharif, who encouraged growers to adopt natural means to increase agricultural production.

Paradoxical farming combines farming practices like hardpan breaking, no tilling, raised beds, precision planting, and organic mulching to invent an effective cropping system.

It is this technique that is being used by Bhom Singh Sodho, a farmer from the district of Umerkot in Sindh where much of the agricultural land was submerged during the recent floods.

Sodho combined raised bed cropping, which helped reduce excess surface water, as well as hardpan breaking, which increased the absorption capacity of his land in the absence of thick agrochemical layers.

“The floods devastated thousands of acres of agricultural land which were using traditional production methods around my farm,” Sodho told Arab News. “However, PQNK saved me from incurring any losses. In fact, I earned substantial profit and was even preparing to cultivate my next crop when a majority of farmers were trying to drain water from their fields.”




This picture shows an agricultural land which is still submerged by flood water in Umerkot, Pakistan, on November 17, 2022. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)

Official estimates suggest the catastrophic floods in Pakistan inflicted more than $30 billion in economic losses while the agricultural sector suffered $3.7 billion in damages. Sindh was the worst-hit province, where a large number of farmers lost both crops and livestock.

Sodho said that he shifted to the new production method two years ago when he decided to employ it over 11 out of his 55 acres of land. The year 2022 was the best for him in terms of cotton, sugarcane, and vegetable crops even amid the unprecedented floods, he said. 

Farmers in Umerkot mostly complain of water shortages and Sodho’s decision to switch to the new farming technique was also prompted by the same reason since the innovative method could help him grow the crops by using much less water than was otherwise required for conventional farming. 

Speaking to Arab News, Sharif, the 71-year-old founder of the system, said PQNK was a “low-cost, sustainable agricultural technique.”

“This is a self-funded initiative and there is no commercial angle involved in it,” Sharif, who is also the founding chairman and chief executive of Pedaver Private Limited, said over the telephone.

He said his method did not employ agrochemicals “which are poisonous for the microbes in the soil.” With an emphasis on organic food production, a farmer’s yield can also be sold at much higher rates in the international market. Apart from that, the new method “helps reduce the seed and water requirements by about 80 percent each.”

He said local soil had developed hardpan layers of chemical pesticide and fertilizer deposits of seven to 19 inches since the green revolution in the 1960s in conventional agriculture farming. Hardpan, he said, was largely impervious to water and restricted the growth of plant roots which lowered crop productivity and decreased the nutrition level.

“PQNK is a permanent low-cost solution for water scarcity and flooding,” he said.

“Breaking hardpan means increasing the capacity of the soil to absorb water. The recent floods caused massive devastation which could have been avoided if there had been a breaking of the hardpan on a larger scale. This also becomes clear when we see Bhom Singh Sodho’s farms since he applied the same method.”

Pakistan’s planning commission, the apex policymaking body, endorsed the new agricultural mechanism in 2021, rebranding it as Regenerative Agricultural Production System (RAPS).

According to Dr. Hamid Jalil, who works with the commission as a member of food security and climate change, “RAPS is a climate-smart agricultural production system.”

“We are scaling up RAPS in the country and introducing it in all public sector research centers and universities for authentication trials,” he told Arab News.

“We have already had success in getting international recognition for it when the World Bank evaluated RAPS in April this year and included it in the upcoming agricultural projects in Pakistan.”

However, Jalil said the biggest challenge in adopting the farming mechanism on a mass level was the provision of seed-sowing planter machines.

“With the assistance of Pro Nature Alliance, the planning commission manufactured four planter machines recently on an experimental basis whose testing was successful,” he added. “Pakistan needs 20,000 planter machines across the country to adopt RAPS. We have made PC-1 [or project feasibility report] that after approval will allow starting local production of planter machines. We can make the required number of machines in five years.”

Sharif added that the farming system could help Pakistan “generate an estimated $20 billion exportable food surplus in just a few years, provided that the country takes well-planned initiatives.

“At present, I have millions of followers across the world who are learning PQNK techniques online,” he said. “In Pakistan, there are about 100,000 farmers who are linked with PQNK and their number is increasing.”


UN-linked body grants ‘A status’ to Pakistan’s National Commission for Human Rights

Updated 9 sec ago
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UN-linked body grants ‘A status’ to Pakistan’s National Commission for Human Rights

  • Accreditation allows National Commission for Human Rights to sit at Human Rights Council, other UN bodies’ meetings
  • NCHR was formed in 2012 for promotion and protection of human rights in Pakistan as per country’s constitution

ISLAMABAD: The Global Alliance for National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), one of the largest rights networks worldwide, has granted Pakistan’s National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) an A-list status, making it a “historic first” for the South Asian country, state media reported this week, 
Representing over 110 National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), their members and staff across all regions, GANHRI is one of the largest human rights networks worldwide. It is also a trusted partner of the United Nations. 
The NCHR was formed in 2012 for the promotion and protection of human rights in Pakistan as per the country’s constitution and international rights instruments. 
“Despite it being extremely rare for commissions to attain A status in the first round, Pakistan’s NCHR has been accredited with this highest grade in its first try,” the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) reported on Saturday. 
“It is also the only country to have attained new A status in this year’s session.”
The status grants NCHR a seat at the Human Rights Council and other UN bodies, APP said, adding that it was “a historic first” for Pakistan. 
“In the past, Pakistan’s commission could only act as an observer but now will get a voice at the table,” it said. 
“NCHR Pakistan joins the ranks of the United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, France and others as an A status NHRI.”
The NCHR’s application process involved submitting a lengthy 125-page report about its establishment, independence, composition, organizational infrastructure, working methods, mandate, and quasi-judicial functions.
The NCHR team was interviewed by a committee comprising over 25 persons and select chairpersons of accredited commissions throughout the world before it attained the prestigious status.
“This milestone positions Pakistan’s NCHR in a global alliance of quality, world-class commissions,” the state media said.
“It allows NCHR to speak at the UN Human Rights Council and other global forums to present Pakistan’s case for human rights. Its voice is strategic for financial concessions to Pakistan such as GSP+, FATE, and IME.”


Special flight carrying first batch of Pakistani students from Bishkek arrives in Lahore

Updated 25 min 39 sec ago
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Special flight carrying first batch of Pakistani students from Bishkek arrives in Lahore

  • Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi receives first batch of 140 Pakistani students stranded in Bishkek following violent clashes
  • Pakistan’s deputy PM to travel to Bishkek today as part of a delegation to review arrangements for students’ safe return

ISLAMABAD: A special flight carrying 140 Pakistani students from the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek landed at the Lahore airport late Saturday night, following violent attacks against foreign nationals in the city this week after a dispute between locals and migrants that led to evacuation requests.
This was the first batch of Pakistani students to arrive in the country after violence erupted in Bishkek on Friday night. Videos of a brawl between Kyrgyz and Egyptian students went viral online, prompting furious mobs to target hostels of medical universities and private lodgings of international students, including Pakistanis, in the city.
According to official statistics, around 10,000 Pakistani students are enrolled in various educational institutions in Kyrgyzstan, with nearly 6,000 residing and studying in Bishkek.
Speaking to Arab News on Saturday, many students reported the Pakistan embassy had advised them to stay indoors, though they had run out of food and water. Some even expressed fears that rioting might resume at night and requested evacuation by the authorities.
Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi welcomed the first batch of Pakistani students as they arrived at the Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore and inquired about their well-being, the interior ministry said in a statement.
“Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi asked students about the tragic incident in Bishkek and inquired about their problems,” the ministry said. 
Naqvi said Pakistani students in Kyrgyzstan are “children of the nation,” vowing that those from cities other than Lahore would be provided free transport.
A statement released by the PM’s Office on Saturday evening said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had directed Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar and another cabinet member, Amir Maqam, to travel to Bishkek on Sunday and address the situation there.
The two Pakistani officials will meet with senior government officials in the Kyrgyz capital to ensure medical treatment for injured students and review arrangements for their return.
“Our first concern is the safe return of Pakistani students,” Naqvi said. “God willing, more students would be brought back via additional flights tomorrow [Sunday].”
The country’s ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Hasan Zaigham said on Saturday that five Pakistani medical students had been injured in the mob attack. One student was admitted to a local hospital with a jaw injury, while the other four were released after receiving first aid.
“No Pakistani was killed or raped in the violence,” he told Arab News over the phone, dispelling rumors circulating on social media. “The situation is under control now as Bishkek authorities have dispersed all the miscreants.”
Separately, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said on Saturday it had summoned and handed a note of protest to Kyrgyzstan’s top diplomat in the country in response to violence against Pakistani students in Bishkek.
“It was impressed on the Kyrgyz charge d’affaires that the Kyrgyz government should take all possible measures to ensure the safety and security of Pakistani students and citizens,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
The statement said the Kyrgyz health ministry had confirmed four Pakistanis were given first aid and discharged while one was still under treatment for injury.


Nawaz Sharif touts past economic success, signaling political comeback amid party leadership change

Updated 45 min 1 sec ago
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Nawaz Sharif touts past economic success, signaling political comeback amid party leadership change

  • Sharif is poised to be re-elected as party president on May 28 after his younger brother and current PM stepped down
  • He was widely viewed as the favorite for Pakistan’s top political office before the Feb. 8 polls failed to produce clear results

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif appeared on national television screens on Saturday after maintaining a relatively low profile since the February 8 general elections, highlighting the achievements of his previous tenures and contrasting them with the prolonged economic turmoil for which he held his rivals accountable.
Sharif, who went into self-exile in November 2019 after being convicted in a corruption case, returned to Pakistan in October last year and was widely viewed as the favorite candidate for the prime minister’s post with the support of the country’s powerful army.
However, he decided against taking the PM’s office after the national polls failed to produce a clear winner, leading to speculation that his role in the country’s politics had all but ended.
However, Sharif’s appearance at the Central Working Committee meeting of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party in Lahore showed he was once again ready to assert his control over his political faction and, by extension, national politics.
“The price of every item was at a nominal level when I was prime minister, whether it was electricity, gas, vegetables, petrol or other essential items of life,” he said while reflecting on his political career, during which his administrations could not complete the constitutionally stipulated five-year tenure.
He maintained that inflation was low, the country was progressing and the interest rate hovered just above five percent during his rule.
“Today, it stands at 22 percent,” he continued.
Sharif emphasized that people should consider which political party had safeguarded their economic interests and which one had made their lives difficult before deciding who should run the country.
“Do you think before voting about what Nawaz Sharif’s performance was and how his rivals fared in contrast?” he asked. “Do you consider the prices during Nawaz Sharif’s tenure to where they are today?”
The PML-N founding leader raised these issues at a time when his party is forced to take stringent financial measures to secure a fresh International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan, leading to high inflation and a depressed economy.
He is also poised to be re-elected to the post of party president on May 28 after his younger brother and the incumbent Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif stepped down from the position earlier this month.
The younger Sharif took over the PML-N presidency after his elder brother was removed following a Supreme Court verdict that disqualified him from holding public office or serving as head of any political faction.
The three-time prime minister also sought the accountability of the judges who removed him from power amid preparations to reclaim his party.


Nida Dar becomes top wicket-taker in women’s T20Is despite Pakistan’s loss to England

Updated 19 May 2024
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Nida Dar becomes top wicket-taker in women’s T20Is despite Pakistan’s loss to England

  • Despite Dar’s milestone, Pakistan fell to England by 65 runs, allowing the hosts to secure a 2-0 series lead
  • Pakistan are now gearing up for the third and final T20I against England, set to take place on May 19 in Leeds

ISLAMABAD: Nida Dar, captain of the Pakistan women’s cricket team, made history by becoming the top wicket-taker in Women’s T20 International cricket with her 137th wicket during the second match against England in Northampton on Friday.

Despite her milestone, Pakistan fell to England by 65 runs, allowing the hosts to secure a 2-0 series lead.

England, batting first, were restricted to 144-6, thanks in part to Dar’s two wickets. However, Pakistan struggled in reply, collapsing to 79 all out within 15.5 overs as English spinners Sophie Ecclestone, Alice Capsey and Sarah Glenn collectively snagged seven wickets.

The International Cricket Council recognized Dar’s historic performance on its website after the match.

“Dar overtook Australia’s Megan Schutt (136 wickets) to lay her claim at the top of the leading wicket-takers chart in women’s T20I on Friday, 17 May,” the ICC proclaimed. “She is the only Pakistan woman in the top 10 list.”

The Pakistan skipper, who started the game with 135 career wickets, was on the verge of setting the new record during Pakistan’s recent home series against the West Indies.

In the match against England, she edged closer to the milestone by getting Capsey stumped in almost the middle of the game and later, in the final over, clinched her landmark 137th wicket by dismissing Amy Jones.

Pakistan are now gearing up for the third and final T20I against England, set to take place on May 19 in Leeds.


Pakistan to send two-member delegation to Kyrgyzstan, offers free evacuation to stranded students

Updated 18 May 2024
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Pakistan to send two-member delegation to Kyrgyzstan, offers free evacuation to stranded students

  • The decision comes after five Pakistani students were injured in mob violence against foreign nationals in Bishkek
  • Deputy PM Ishaq Dar will lead the delegation on Sunday morning to review arrangements for the return of students

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif decided to send a two-member delegation to the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek and offered free travel facilities to all Pakistani students stranded there on Saturday, following mob violence against foreign nationals enrolled in various universities that led to evacuation requests.
The violence erupted on Friday night after videos of a brawl between Kyrgyz and Egyptian students went viral online, prompting furious mobs to target hostels of medical universities and private lodgings of international students, including Pakistanis, in the city.
According to official statistics, around 10,000 Pakistani students are enrolled in various educational institutions in Kyrgyzstan, with nearly 6,000 residing and studying in Bishkek.
Speaking to Arab News on Saturday, many students reported the Pakistan embassy had advised them to stay indoors, though they had run out of food and water. Some even expressed fears that rioting might resume at night and requested evacuation by the authorities.
A statement released by the PM’s Office in the evening indicated that Sharif had directed Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar and another cabinet member, Amir Maqam, to address the situation in Bishkek.
“Both officials will depart for Bishkek early tomorrow morning [on Sunday] via a special plane,” the statement continued. “Throughout the day, the Prime Minister had been monitoring the situation and staying in contact with the Pakistani ambassador in Bishkek.”
“Despite the satisfactory situation,” it added, “the decision to send this delegation was made to ensure necessary support and facilities for Pakistani students.”
The two Pakistani officials will meet with senior government officials in the Kyrgyz capital to ensure medical treatment for injured students and review arrangements for their return.
In an earlier statement, the prime minister noted that those who wanted to return to Pakistan would be “facilitated at the government’s expense.”
Sharif also declared that his administration would not leave the students alone during such a difficult time and would remain in contact with them and their parents through the embassy.
Meanwhile, the foreign office activated its Crisis Management Unit to facilitate and assist Pakistani nationals in the Kyrgyz Republic and their families. The unit can be contacted on the following numbers: +92519203108 and +92519203094, or via email at [email protected].
The country’s ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Hasan Zaigham said earlier in the day that five Pakistani medical students had been injured in the mob attack. One student was admitted to a local hospital with a jaw injury, while the other four were released after receiving first aid.
“No Pakistani was killed or raped in the violence,” he told Arab News over the phone, dispelling rumors circulating on social media. “The situation is under control now as Bishkek authorities have dispersed all the miscreants.”