ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has expressed fear that the country might face a famine-like situation if the federal government does not take immediate action to eliminate swarms of locusts destroying crops on a massive and unprecedented scale in the country, particularly in south Punjab.
In a video message, PML-N Punjab secretary general Sardar Awais Leghari said the south Punjab region was witnessing a full-scale locust attack at the moment and the government was not taking the required action.
Mr Leghari declared that the locust attack in areas of south Punjab was more dangerous and serious than the coronavirus pandemic in the country.
He said the federal government, which had once declared to create a new province in south Punjab, completely ignored the region.
“We raised the issue some eight months ago in media and even in parliament, but the government did nothing,” he alleged.
On the other hand, when contacted, federal Secretary of the National Food Security (NFS) Omar Hamid Khan, though admitted that the locust attack this year was more powerful than in several past years and the danger was still not over, claimed that the situation was not as bad as being described by opposition parties, perhaps to make it a “political issue”.
Mr Leghari accused the federal government of having failed to arrange even a small aircraft for spray over the last eight months.
He said that even if they succeeded in eliminating 80 per cent of the locusts, the remaining 20 per cent were enough to completely destroy the country’s agriculture and its economy, besides causing a massive shortage of food, crops and fodder for the cattle.
The PML-N leader specifically named Jhang, Kot Addu, Layyah and Rojhan as the worst-affected tehsils experiencing the full-scale attack by locusts.
He said that even the home constituency Taunsa of Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar was at present under the severe locust attack.
Mr Leghari said the country’s economy was already showing a negative trend with 1.7pc growth due to “faulty policies” of the PTI government, and Covid-19 had further worsened the economic situation.
He warned that if the federal government did not wake up now, the country could face a serious shortage of food items and that would ruin the country’s economy.
NFS Secretary Omar Hamid Khan said they were using all resources to fight the locusts. He said there was a danger that the country might be hit by more locust swarms from eight African countries, but there was also possibility that they might pass through coastal areas to some neighbouring countries.
Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2020