We are living in a third world country having the potential and capability to become a first world country. One of the reasons of our socio economic backwardness is non utilization of our human, physical and natural resources. One of the examples is our very fertile lands remaining barren, un-utilized and non-cultivated. This is in spite of very favorable weather conditions, water resources, and energetic people and farmers. Along with this inappropriate utilization of financial resources; lack of visionary leadership, sub-standard education, health and sanitation facilities and poor living standards, thana and patwari culture are stagnating the national socio economic growth. No doubt, a sector of the civil society especially NGOs are doing appreciable work, but it is only in selected pockets. All of us bear the responsibility to participate meaningfully in the social and economic uplift of our society especially the deprived people.
I am an engineer by education and businessman by profession, working as Director in Izhar Group, which is doing business and research in construction, engineering, housing, alternate energy, and of late in agriculture. We have neither an education in agriculture nor a family background. However, we strongly feel that in addition to above sectors, we must play our role in promoting value added agriculture specially in barren and arid areas of Pakistan. Almost two thirds of Pakistan has marginal lands which are totally un-utilized and barren. Wherever, agriculture is being done, that too is backward and far behind world standards. It is a fact that agriculture can become backbone of our economy but for that we need applied research, new technologies, educated and skilled human resources in this sector.
The agricultural development done by Turkey and Malaysia always inspired me. Several visits of Turkey specially showed me that the best solution for barren lands is olive cultivation. Olive plantations were successfully growing in huge waste lands of Turkey, which are barren and arid, and without water resources. It was worth seeing that Olive plantations were thriving in those barren lands. This brought me to the idea of emulating the same in Pakistan. The lands are more fertile here in Pakistan and weather is more conducive than Turkish environment. The best solution for barren lands of Pakistan is olive plantations, as Malaysian solution of Palm Oil requires tropical region with heavy rains and humid weather, which is not available in Pakistan. Thus we started research and development of Olive plantations.
After doing this pioneering research and development work in olive plantations, I think that the time has come to share our achievements with government, media, local bodies, farmers and agriculturalists.
A major proportion of our population is engaged in or dependent on agriculture directly and indirectly. This population is the real asset of the society but its access to education, health, drinking water and sanitation is severely limited. In Pakistan we need a new socio-economic order aiming at equality, non-discrimination and equal access to resources and opportunities, the like of which we can witness in countries like Malaysia and Turkey. This vision can be realized if all the stakeholders i.e. government, private sector, elected representatives, social sector, research centers, universities, intellectuals and communities sit together and develop a mutually acceptable consensual national roadmap binding on all.
We are not focusing merely on an agricultural development project; we have set our vision on overall rural development. It is our vision. All of us want to see a happy, prosperous and socially uplifted rural population of Pakistan with all basic facilities and with access to opportunities for continuous development. It is our desire to help foster it. The happiness I feel when I am among the olive plants, is more than that, I feel spiritually elevated.
Olive plantation is one big initiative which will not solve all problems. Those problems include illiteracy, exploitation, housing, living standards of lower middle and poor classes, gender discrimination, abuse, domestic violence, torture, disability, and unemployment especially for women, minorities and between sects and castes. We must understand, face and resolve these issues at our level. We must play our character to the best of our abilities. Why we are reluctant to play our role. Is it because of the reason that we do not know what we should and can do? We must do the right thing, and never hesitate to object to injustice and to point out wrong and unfair practices. In short, I can say:
Right is righteous and wrong is a demon. Acceptance or silence in the face of for wrong is like believing in demons and non-acceptance of wrong is a virtue from God.
Yaqoob Tahir Izhar
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