Karachi urged to help develop rural areas of Sindh

May 16, 2019

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Prof Aijaz Qureshi speaks at the event.—White Star
Prof Aijaz Qureshi speaks at the event.—White Star

KARACHI: “This city of Karachi, the economic capital of Pakistan, has had no role in developing the rural areas of Sindh,” said Prof Aijaz Qureshi, one of the authors of The Economy of Sindh: Opportunities Lost and Lessons for the Future, during Sindh Abhyas Academy’s 14th Sindh Studies Lecture on the subject of ‘Sindh’s agriculture, economy and irrigation system’ held at Szabist’s 90 Clifton auditorium here on Tuesday.

“Karachi should come forward,” he said. “Sindh has a lot of industrial potential that has not been exploited. For this the private sector also needs to come forward. We can have export promotion zones in cities such as Hyderabad, Larkana, Sukkur, etc, with the help of which things or specialties of each city can be exported. For instance, we could export bangles from Hyderabad to the Middle East,” he said.

“The government, too, needs to bring in advisers. Otherwise how else are we going to reduce poverty? Taking loans from here or there will only invite more problems for us and solve nothing,” the professor explained.

‘We take new loans to pay off old loans as we go deeper and deeper in debt’

About the book, which also has Dr Ishrat Husain and Nadeem Hussain as its co-authors, Prof Qureshi said that it is the first book written on the economy of Sindh. “We tried collecting data from throughout Pakistan and collected it in one place in the form of the book because after the 18th Amendment there was a need to look into how to strengthen provinces,” he added.

Nadeem Hussain, the book’s other co-author, said that looking at their findings they can say that Sindh is not living up to its full potential. Backing Prof Qureshi’s views on foreign loans, he said that at present we are focusing on an IMF bailout package, something which we have been doing for the last 30 years or so. “It is because as a nation we don’t mobilise our national resources. We take a loan and don’t use it for improving our potential. Instead we take new loans to pay off old loans as we go deeper and deeper in debt,” he said.

“Bailout packages are quick fixes but they don’t last. The state needs to strengthen its provinces to mobilise itself,” he said. “There is a serious need of dialogue between the government and the private sector. The rural economy is the most untapped economy in this country and there is a need to properly market our products. We also have an [over] 60 per cent youth population that needs to be channelised. We need to provide them with adequate skills as all here are not going to schools anyway,” he said.

“So many people here don’t even know the purpose of their lives. They need to be given a direction. If the government does not provide an economic direction and strategy to its citizens you cannot expect a meaningful change down the road. If after 10 to 12 years of schooling you have brought a human resource not enabled to even think, you have deprived society of its thinking process. And you cannot have innovation without thinking,” he said.

Ghazala Rahman Rafiq, director of the Sindh Abhyas Academy, who was also moderating the programme, meanwhile observed that the citizens of Karachi were benefiting from Sindh’s agriculture as they got food from there and they were drinking water from the Indus and yet they had no sense of giving back or bridging the gap between the urban and rural divide.

Prof Dr Mohammad Ismail Kunbhar, an expert on Sindh’s agriculture and irrigation system, and chairman of the department of agriculture at the Tando Jam University of Agriculture, finally gave a presentation through which he spoke about the various sources of food in Sindh such as agriculture, livestock, poultry and fisheries before coming to the challenges faced by all of them. “Pakistan’s agriculture challenges include food security, climate change, low agriculture productivity, increasing population, decreasing agriculture land, shrinking water resources, environmental degradation, including deforestation, frequent droughts, sea intrusion, overexploitation of groundwater and the lack of value chain of products,” he said before going on to talk about each issue at length.

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2019