Pakistan’s Sindh to grant over 52,000 acres of land to army-backed firm for corporate farming

In this file photo, taken on September 2, 2022, farmers plant paddy saplings in a field in Sukkur, Sindh province. (AFP/File)
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Updated 20 January 2024

Pakistan’s Sindh to grant over 52,000 acres of land to army-backed firm for corporate farming

  • The provincial government has signed an agreement to grant land in six districts for a period of 20 years 
  • The pact is one of initiatives under Special Investment Facilitation Council’s umbrella to boost agriculture 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s southern Sindh province has formally agreed to grant more than 52,000 acres of barren land to an army-backed firm, M/S Green Corporate Initiative (Private) Limited, for corporate farming, the Sindh chief minister’s office said on Saturday, as part of efforts to boost agriculture in the South Asian country.
It was one of the initiatives under the umbrella of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), established in June last year, as part of which the federal and provincial governments, including the then-elected Sindh government, had decided to introduce the initiative of corporate agriculture farming (CAF) in all provinces, according to the Sindh CM’s office.
Considering an ongoing initiative decided at national and provincial levels, the statement of conditions (SoCs) for corporate agriculture farming was approved by the Sindh caretaker government on December 01, 2023 to ensure the continuity of the policy decisions of the previous elected governments both at federal and provincial levels.
“As a pilot project, concerned Deputy Commissioners have identified some pieces of barren land measuring approximately ‘52713’ Acres, for the pilot project of this initiative i.e., Khairpur 28,000 Acres, Tharparkar 10,000 Acres, Dadu 9305 Acres, Thatta 1000 Acres, Sujawal 3408 Acres and Badin 1000 Acres,” the Sindh CM’s office said in a statement.
“The barren land shall be handed over for 20 years after survey, demarcation and verification that such land is not located in prohibited areas, not under any pending litigations or court orders and also not included in any barrage land grants.”
The Sindh government said that it would ensure that no land was considered for this initiative that fell within the limits of any villages, katchi abadi, temporary shelters, grazing land, amenity, potential mining areas, motorways, roads, jails, railway lines, irrigation channels, wildlife sanctuaries, mountain ranges, heritage sites, religious sites, graveyards, forest, sea creeks, river deltas, port and sea shore.
“The Company shall spend 20 percent of the Net profit on Research and Development in the local area, while 40 percent of the Net Profit will be paid to the Sindh Government on an annual basis,” the statement read.
“The remaining 40 percent of the Company share shall also be spent on local infrastructures, irrigation channels, solar water supply schemes, schools, hospitals, development schemes and other facilities in areas where such projects will be executed in Sindh province.”
The land will not be granted as a title but only for cultivation purposes, while its ownership will remain with the Sindh government, according to the statement. A Board of Management has been established under the Sindh chief secretary that will take all decisions regarding the land management and issues, and the Sindh government will have the final authority in case any issues arise.
Agriculture contributes 23 percent to Pakistan’s GDP and employs 37.4 percent of the labor force but productivity is currently below par, with decreasing cultivation area, a population-production gap, and agricultural imports amounting to $10 billion.
The country is also facing a 4 million metric ton shortfall in wheat production against a total demand of 30.8 million metric tons, while cotton production has fallen by 40 percent to around 5 million bales in the last decade.
In July last year, Pakistan established a Land Information and Management System, Center of Excellence ((LIMS-CoE) to enhance modern agro-farming by utilizing over 9 million hectares of uncultivated state land, with a senior official saying that Saudi Arabia provided an initial $500 million investment to set up the facility.
Later in the same month, Pakistan Army Chief General Asim Munir, who is a member of the SIFC, and the then prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, inaugurated the nation’s first corporate farm as part of the initiative to modernize agricultural practices in the South Asian country.

PM Sharif credits late President Raisi for strengthening Pak-Iran ties, promoting regional cooperation

Updated 5 sec ago

PM Sharif credits late President Raisi for strengthening Pak-Iran ties, promoting regional cooperation

  • Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, FM Amir-Abdollahian and seven others were confirmed dead on Monday in a helicopter crash 
  • Raisi arrived in Pakistan last month on three-day visit aimed at mending ties after Pakistan, Iran exchanged military strikes in January 

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday paid tribute to late Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi for strengthening Pakistan-Iran relations and promoting regional cooperation, a day after Tehran confirmed he had died in a helicopter crash with the country’s foreign minister and other officials.

Iranian authorities first raised alarm on Sunday afternoon when they lost contact with Raisi’s helicopter as it flew through a fog-shrouded mountain area of the Jolfa region of East Azerbaijan province. The Iranian president, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and seven others were confirmed dead by state media on Monday after search-and-rescue teams found their crashed helicopter in a mountainous region of northern Iran. 

Chairing a meeting of the federal cabinet in Islamabad, Sharif offered his condolences over Raisi’s death, saying that Pakistan had lost “a friend who was like a brother.”

“Dr. Raisi will forever be remembered along with services to his nation, for promoting Pakistan-Iran relations and regional cooperation,” the Pakistani prime minister said. “His visit to Pakistan last month was an important milestone in further strengthening and stabilizing our bilateral relations.”

Sharif said Pakistan would continue with Raisi’s vision to promote Islamabad’s ties with Iran, adding that the Pakistani cabinet pays tribute to the late Iranian president for his “excellent services” for the region. 

“May Allah grant Iran’s President Dr. Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s foreign minister and their friends a high status in paradise,” he said. 

In April, Raisi arrived in Pakistan on a three-day official visit to Pakistan as the two Muslim neighbors sought to mend ties after unprecedented tit-for-tat military strikes earlier this year.

The Iranian president held delegation-level meetings in the Pakistani capital as well as one-on-one discussions with Pakistan’s prime minister, president, army chief, Senate chairman and National Assembly speaker.

During the visit, Raisi had also overseen the signing of eight agreements between the two countries that covered different fields, including trade, science technology, agriculture, health, culture, and judicial matters.

His death takes place as the Middle East remains unsettled by Israel’s war on Gaza, during which Raisi under Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei launched an unprecedented drone-and-missile attack on Israel last month. 

Under Raisi, Iran enriched uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels, further escalating tensions with the West as Tehran also supplied bomb-carrying drones to Russia for its war in Ukraine and armed militia groups across the region.

Military courts no novelty in Pakistan but returning ‘with force’ — Amnesty International

Updated 26 min 28 sec ago

Military courts no novelty in Pakistan but returning ‘with force’ — Amnesty International

  • At least 103 people linked to May 9 riots currently being tried by army courts
  • Military courts operate under separate system from the civilian legal system

ISLAMABAD: Civilians should not be tried by military courts, Amnesty International Secretary-General Dr. Agnès Callamard said in an interview published on Tuesday, lamenting that the practice had been widely used in Pakistan’s history and was now returning “with force.”

Military courts have been in the spotlight since last year when hundreds of alleged supporters of former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party were arrested following riots on May 9 in which military and government installations were damaged. 

The government at the time as well as the army said those found to be behind attacks on military properties would be tried in army courts. At least 103 people linked to the May 9 riots are currently being tried in army courts, unleashing widespread criticism from within Pakistan and rights organizations globally over the courts’ secretive nature and existence alongside a functioning civilian legal system.

Last month, Pakistan freed at least 20 people previously detained by the military in connection with the May 9 riots.

“Civilians should not be tried by military courts,” Dr. Callamard said in an interview to Pakistan’s Dawn published on Tuesday, when asked about the military trial of civilians in Pakistan. “Sadly, it has happened throughout Pakistan’s history. Even though it is now coming back with force, it is not a novelty in Pakistan’s history.

“Pakistan is the only country in South Asia in recent history to allow military courts to play such a role vis à vis civilians,” she said, adding that historically military trials in Pakistan were held secretly and without transparency. 

The Supreme Court last October declared null and void the trial of civilians by military courts arrested in the wake of the May 9 protests, but overturned its own verdict in December and allowed the army to resume hearing the cases of 103 civilians.

Pakistan’s Army Act of 1952 established military courts primarily to try members of the military or enemies of the state. Civilians can only be tried under a federal government order.

Civilians accused of offenses such as waging war against the armed forces or law enforcement agencies, or attacking military installations or inciting mutiny, can be tried at military courts.

Military courts operate under a separate system from the civilian legal system and are run by military officers. The judges are also military personnel and cases are tried at military installations.

Trials are closed to outsiders, and no media presence is allowed.

Anyone tried under the Army Act has the right to defend themselves and a counsel of their choice. There is no right to appeal but individuals can challenge the question of jurisdiction in high courts and the Supreme Court.

Pakistan GDP grows 2.09% in Q3, supported by agriculture

Updated 57 min 16 sec ago

Pakistan GDP grows 2.09% in Q3, supported by agriculture

  • Pakistan’s central bank in latest report projected real GDP growth of 2-3% for the fiscal year 2024 
  • Provisional 2024 financial year growth in agriculture estimated at 6.25%, 1.21% for industry and services

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s economy grew 2.09% in the third quarter of the financial year 2023-2024, supported by higher growth in agriculture, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics said in a press release on Tuesday.

The estimated provisional growth rate of gross domestic product (GDP) for the financial year ending June 2024 is 2.38%, the bureau said in a statement. That compares with a revised 0.21% economic contraction in the 2023 year when political unrest, a combination of tax and gas tariff hikes, controlled imports, and a steep fall in the rupee currency rapidly pushed up inflation.

Last week in its half yearly report, Pakistan’s central bank projected real GDP growth of 2-3% for the fiscal year 2024.

There was no comparable year-ago third quarter GDP data as Pakistan only began releasing quarterly growth numbers from November. That was done in compliance with the structural benchmarks of the current $3 billion bailout program agreed with the International Monetary Fund and completed last month.

The bureau revised the first and second quarter GDP estimates for financial year 2023-2024 to 2.71% and 1.79% respectively, compared to earlier estimates of 2.5% and 1%.

The provisional 2024 financial year growth in agriculture was estimated at 6.25%, and 1.21% for both industry as well as services, it added.

“The healthy growth of agriculture is mainly due to double-digit growth in important crops,” the bureau said, adding that bumper crop of wheat, cotton, and rice contributed to the positive result.

'They love their cricket': Rohit Sharma lauds Pakistani fans for praising Indian cricketers

Updated 21 May 2024

'They love their cricket': Rohit Sharma lauds Pakistani fans for praising Indian cricketers

  • India and Pakistan, bitter political adversaries, enjoy one of sports fiercest rivalries in cricket
  • Indian captain Rohit Sharma bats for Test series with arch-rivals, says Pakistan “overall a good team”

ISLAMABAD: Indian captain Rohit Sharma recently praised Pakistani fans for appreciating Indian cricketers, saying that he would love to play in a Test series between the two arch-rivals if it were ever to take place. 

The South Asian neighbors are bitter political adversaries and have fought three wars against each other since they were partitioned at the end of British colonial rule in 1947. Their tensions mean the two countries rarely play bilateral series against one another and meet only at “neutral venues” during international tournaments. 

Sharma, 37, appeared on ‘Dubai Eye 103.8,’ a Dubai-based talk radio station on Wednesday to discuss the upcoming T20 World Cup 2024 and his journey as India’s skipper so far. During the show, the hosts relayed a message to Sharma from a Pakistani fan. 

“Loved the messages from the Pakistani fans,” Sharma said, smiling. “I know they love their cricket, they love it. Every time, mainly when we are in the UK these guys come and just tell us how, respectfully, how they love us, how they love Indian cricketers and how they love to watch some of us at big stages.”

India and Pakistan are bitter political adversaries and have fought three wars against each other since they were partitioned at the end of British colonial rule in 1947.

Their cricket teams have not faced off in a Test since 2007. Instead, they play only occasionally in the shorter versions of the game. 

When asked whether there were chances of India and Pakistan playing each other in a Test match soon, Sharma said:

“I don’t know the status of it. Personally if you ask me, I’m a cricketer at the end of the day. I want to play cricket and I want to get challenged at whatever stage I play cricket, and I feel Pakistan is a good team.”

Sharma praised Pakistan for having “solid bowlers,” saying that the green shirts are “overall a very good team.” He said cricket fans around the world would love to watch a Test series between the two arch-rivals. 

“I actually have no issues it’s just from a pure cricketing perspective if I have to look at it, it’s going to be a great cricket contest,” he explained. 

India and Pakistan have not faced each other on either side’s soil in a bilateral series since 2012.

India last year refused to travel to Pakistan for the white-ball Asia Cup, prompting part of the tournament to be staged in Sri Lanka. They last met at the 50-over World Cup in India in October.

The two cricket giants will square off on June 9 in New York when the T20 World Cup 2024 gets underway. 

26,711 Pakistani pilgrims reach Saudi Arabia ahead of this year’s Hajj

Updated 21 May 2024

26,711 Pakistani pilgrims reach Saudi Arabia ahead of this year’s Hajj

  • Around 179,210 Pakistanis will perform Hajj under both government and private schemes 
  • Over 1,000 Pakistani Hajj pilgrims have arrived in Kingdom through private tour operators

ISLAMABAD: A spokesperson for Pakistan’s religion ministry said on Tuesday 26,711 Pakistani pilgrims have arrived in Saudi Arabia ahead of next month’s Hajj, less than two weeks after the country kicked off its pre-Hajj flight operations to the Kingdom. 

This year, around 179,210 Pakistanis will perform Hajj under both the government and private schemes, for which a month-long flight operation started on May 9. This year’s pilgrimage is expected to run from June 14-19.

“Through 109 flights, 26,711 Pakistani Hajj pilgrims have reached Saudi Arabia,” a spokesperson of the Religious Affairs (MoRA) said in a statement. “After an eight-day stay in Madinah, the first convoy of 6,011 Hajj pilgrims has left for Makkah.”

The spokesperson said over 1,000 Hajj pilgrims have arrived in Saudi Arabia through the private scheme, adding that 336 assistants or “Hajj Moavineen” have been deployed to help Pakistani pilgrims, and ensure their pilgrimage remains a hassle-free one. 

He said Pakistan’s Religious Affairs Minister Chaudhry Salik Hussain visited the residences of Pakistani Hajj pilgrims in Makkah recently and also reviewed arrangements for their food and travel in the holy city. 

“Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Chaudhry Salik Hussain is expected to hold an important meeting with his Saudi counterpart today,” the spokesperson said. 

Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and requires every adult Muslim to undertake the journey to the holy Islamic sites in Makkah at least once in their lifetime, provided they are financially and physically able to do so.

Pilgrims from Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi are availing the Makkah Route Initiative facility for the first time. Launched in 2019, the initiative allows for the completion of immigration procedures at the pilgrims’ country of departure. 

This makes it possible to bypass long immigration and customs checks upon reaching Saudi Arabia, which significantly reduces the waiting time and makes the entry process smoother and faster.