Winding up the two-day discussion on all possible aspects related to our agriculture sector, Syed Fakhar-e-Imam surely delivered a comprehensive speech Friday.

The minister in charge of the food security does not represent the usual class of ‘absentee landlords’, dominating the political scene of this country since decades. Instead of chasing any powerful office in elitist services after completing his education, he devoted himself to full-time farming. He keeps deepening and updating the empirically acquired knowledge with studious monitoring of the agriculture-related scene all across the world.

But the speech he delivered Friday sounded more like a ‘concept paper.’ For sure, it attempted to set a short, mid and long-term strategy to inject vibrancy to the agricultural sector of Pakistan. Most of his recommendations also deserved execution with a determined mind on fast track.

The same speech, however, had no pacifying answers to here and now sort of issues that a large crowd of speakers, from both sides of the aisle, kept complaining about. Most speakers, for example, unanimously agitated about the heartless conduct of authorities, supplying the electricity to tube wells.

The middle and low scale farmers need to wait for months to get this basic utility installed on their lands. After desperate pleading, they get the connection, but only after paying a hefty amount for the purchase of transformers. The onerous ‘investment’ is often treated as ‘the collateral.’

Many members of the national assembly repeatedly narrated incidents, where a farmer felt unable to timely pay the bill, which seldom crossed Rs 5,000. Hardly a few days after expiry of the ‘due date’ for payment of the bill, authorities not only ‘cut’ the electricity connection, but take away the transformer as well.

Speaker after speaker kept comparing such humiliating treatment with the privilege enjoyed by our industrialists. Often, the bills due to them reach the level of colossal millions. But they keep getting electricity for their factories and eventually manage write offs or delayed payments on easy installments.

The minister of food security could not commit anything assuaging on this issue. Being a dead honest type, Syed Fakhar-e-Imam fully knew his limits. The fiscal management of the Imran government is completely controlled by a cabal of IMF-gifted ‘technocrats.’ They have convinced the prime minister that Pakistan’s economy could only be turned around and start galloping to dynamic prosperity, if the ‘export-led’ industries were pampered like chosen children.

A massive chunk of the ‘stimulus packages’ that the government had announced to sustain economic activity in Corona-hit times had been reserved for the same sector. Then came the obsession to revitalize the construction sector and the rest of business-supporting initiatives have gone to sectors, essentially catering for urban-based consumers.

We seldom witnessed ‘high-powered’ meetings, exclusively focusing on finding means to inject dynamism to our agricultural sector. Hardly two months ago, the whole set of buy and bully tools of the state were ruthlessly employed to procure wheat on the price, the government had fixed for this essential item. A huge number of farmers were not motivated to sell their produce on the given price. Fairly a good number of them were thus booked under the heinous charge of ‘hoarding.’ And the government took no time to proudly announce to have acquired the target set in ‘record’ number of days.

The boasting has now begun to sound hollow. The retail price of flour in most cities of Pakistan, for the past two weeks,has been consistently inching upward. Ominous whispers have also started to prepare us for the crisis like shortageof wheat and flour, after two months. To prevent the same, wheat import has been allowed in panic and international price of this key item of daily consumption remains considerably higher than the price, the government has fixed for local growers.

Since the days of British Raj, vast tracts of our lands were associated also with bumper and high quality growth of cotton. Since the 1980s, sugarcane had begun to replace it. Farmers felt allured to it because the planting of sugarcane ensures more cash. They don’t need to nurse and protect it with vigilant monitoring and hard labor. But the same crop consumes water like a monster and has already caused irreparable damage the subsoil reservoirs of water. Now the government had declared a decisive war on “sugar mafia,’ without offering any workable alternatives to sugarcane growers.

Fakhar-e-Imam is fully conversant with the dilemma of cotton versus sugarcane dynamics. But he preferred to skip it while delivering an all-encompassing kind of speech. In the immediate context, he only promised to furnish high quality and high yield seeds of the wheat and cotton during the nest season of sowing for these crops.

For sure, he has been keeping a vigilant eye on the possible attack of locusts. But during his speech of Friday, he refrained to quantify the damage, its previous attack had already caused. A fresh attack could certainly lead to disastrous consequences, triggering mass scale instances of food insecurity in many areas. The possible impact of it was not discussed, threadbare, either.

The issues, I have briefly mentioned so far, are fast spreading the feeling of doom and gloom among our farmers. A substantive number of the ruling party MNAs felt compelled to wail about them during the national assembly proceedings. The Speaker, Asad Qaisar, had cunningly agreed to dedicate two days for letting off their accumulated steam. But his generosity failed to extract assuaging promises that the ruling party MNAs could flaunt in their ‘home constituencies.’ For the past two months, many of them had been telling the journalists they trust, off the record, that they were left with ‘no face’ to meet their voters.

During the budget session last month, some of them even ‘embarrassed’ their own government by delivering critical speeches. The ceaseless bickering among them motivated a large group of parliamentary reporters to spin stories, anticipating the so-called ‘in-house change,’ both in Punjab and Islamabad.

Prime Minister Imran Khan and his diehard loyalists deride these stories with utmost contempt. They strongly feel that after the fall of “looters and plunderers,” no viable alternative is yet available on our political scene. They are here to stay, rain or shine. But the political history of Pakistan is replete with events, where the ‘indispensible types’ were found helplessly succumbing to sudden crises. Most of these crises have been mostly connected to widespread anxiety among our farmers and rural communities.