“Our rulers are begging for bread from international donors even though we have nuclear missiles,” said Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif while addressing a gathering of University of Agriculture (UAF) students in Faisalabad on Wednesday.
The chief minister said that it had become imperative for people to rise up against the incumbent government and its corrupt policies. “We need to act now if we are going to progress beyond this stalemate,” he added. Sharif said that foreign aid and unquestioning obedience to foreign powers had compromised Pakistan’s sovereignty. “We have put everything on line and yet we still get orders to “Do more”. It is America that needs to do more,” he added.
Sharif said Pakistan had sought foreign aid totalling Rs64 billion over the past 64 years and that the ‘constant borrowing’ had torn the country to shreds.
He said Pakistan needed to focus on its agriculture industry. “We have the potential to be exporting crops to the rest of the world but this is not happening. Instead, the industry is being destroyed because of lack of planning,” he added. “It is time to bring back the money our ‘leaders’ have stolen. The amount stored in Swiss banks is enough to get our economy back on its feet,” he said.
Speaking about livestock, the chief minister said that even India had begun earning foreign exchange by exporting Halal meat to the other countries but Pakistan still lagged behind in this area. He said the Punjab government had exported a container of 25 tonnes of meat after meeting international standards. He said that the livestock was a $600 billion industry and that ‘Pakistan should be vying for its own share’ in this.
He said that in 2009, Punjab experienced a bumper production of wheat after the government set the support price of Rs900. “Now small farmers are being exploited,” he added.
Sharif said the government under the Punjab Educational Endowment Fund had provided scholarships worth Rs30,000 for needy students across the province while 413 talented students from UAF had also benefited from this fund. The chief minister announced that 300 UAF students would be sent abroad for study next year.
He said that his government has earmarked Rs10 billion for the Punjab Education Foundation to ensure quality education at the grass root level.
He said that the provincial government had set up a fund of Rs1 billion under Akhuwat Foundation to provide interest free loans up to Rs50,000 each to the needy to start their business or continue their studies.
“The government is also setting up four new universities for women across the province in order to provide quality education for women,” he added.
He also announced the aid of the Rs70 million to the UAF for upgrades. He lauded the steps being taken on the part of the university, especially in the field of agriculture.
UAF Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan said for the last year the university has held the third place in research across the country out of a total pf 125 universities, following Quaid-e-Azam University and Karachi University.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 17th, 2011.