LAHORE - Farmers’ bodies have opposed the use of Central Cotton Research Institute Multan’s land for the secretariat of proposed South Punjab province.

“We request Prime Minister Imran Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar to issue order for the establishment of the new province offices at some other place instead of using the cotton institute land,” said Pakistan Kissan Ittehad President Khalid Khokhar on Sunday. Other bodies also stated the farmers will not allow the closure of the research centre which was a key institute for the research and development of the most important crop of the area.

Established in 1970 with the purpose of conducting fundamental research and guiding new lines of action for improvement of cotton crop, the Institute provides a platform where research on cotton could be planned and coordinated on a national basis to cater the demands of the country. The Institute is well-equipped with research laboratories, greenhouse, library, experimental farm area (total area 110 acres and experimental area 76 acres), automated meteorological observatory, ginnery, farm machinery, stores, and other necessary facilities to carry out research work.

The institute is considered centre of excellence in Asia which made tremendous progress in cotton research in various aspects during last many years. Besides others, it developed 28 commercial cotton varieties including eight BT varieties with high yielding, heat tolerant, early maturing, short stature, climate adoptive qualities.  It also developed 11 Genetics Male Sterile (GMS) lines at Breeding & Genetics. A number of scientists have been trained in the field of biotechnology, virology and other disciplines from USA, Turkey, Egypt and China. It has been recognised as a Centre of Excellence by the OIC and is a focal organization to train the cotton scientists from cotton growing countries. The Institute is also a recipient of a number of achievement awards from the President of Pakistan.

Khokhar said the institute was facing a lot of problems already but the land allocation decision emerged as biggest and fresh. He said the PML-N government last year had made attempt to handover its land to police department but it could not be happened due to severe protest of the farmers. The farmers now would also lodge a massive protest campaign if the government remained stick to its plan, he said.