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The Nation

Published Date: Dec 12, 2013

S Asia faces food, water, energy insecurity

India and Pakistan face similar challenges and there is need to jointly
address them. This was stated by Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan
TCA Raghavan while speaking at Sustainable Development Policy
Institute’s annual Sustainable Development Conference.
The
conference began Tuesday and will continue till Thursday in Islamabad.
He also emphasized that the trade for peace agenda in South Asia
requires immediate attention and should be taken forward by establishing
a connected infrastructure between member states.  Khurram Dastagir
Khan, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry stated that
governments realize the importance of regional connectivity. In this
regard, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has taken steps to promote a healthy
bilateral relationship, expecting the same from India. Pradeep Mehta,
Secretary General, CUTS International and representatives from the
business community in Pakistan, including Amin Hashwani of the Hashwani
Group and Shaban Khalid, President ICCI, also reiterated measures needed
for enhancing trade between India and Pakistan.
In the session on
Energy and Water Security in South Asia, Shams Ul Mulk, former chairman
WAPDA, highlighted that as a region, South Asia faces the triangular
nexus of food, water and energy insecurity. He stressed that it was
imperative to focus on both, availability as well as affordability of
energy. In a subsequent session on the same theme, Musadik Malik,
Advisor the Prime Minister of Pakistan, said that "The national power
policy was the only policy approved by all four provinces." Experts in
the panel stressed the need for member states to jointly address energy
and water based disputes and challenges in South Asia.
In a panel on
the Government’s Vision 2025 Plan, experts stressed that civil services
reforms were needed to ensure due implementation of policies. There is
need for census in Pakistan for informed policy making. As it is, a new
national census has been long due in the country. There should also be
consensus amongst political parties to ensure persistency in policies.
On
the future of food security in Pakistan, experts expressed that in
order to ensure food security in Pakistan urgent steps are required to
improve agricultural productivity and efficiency. The socio-economic
status of small farmers needs to be enhanced along with structural
reforms in the agricultural sector. In the panel on access to quality
education in Pakistan, Mosharraf Zaidi, renowned analyst and Team Lead
of the Alif Ailaan education campaign, observed that education in
Pakistan has been painfully affected due to political issues in the
country. Experts also emphasized the need for policy-relevant research
in the education sector, as well as increase in budgetary allocations to
the sector.
A number of interesting case studies from across South
Asia were presented in the session on Sustainable Development in South
Asia through Innovations and Partnerships. These involved a project in
Sri Lanka to utilize solid waste for producing bio-energy and the Nadi
water filter in Thatta, Pakistan.
In the panel on Agriculture Value
Chain Development of South Asia, experts observed that Pakistan is still
driving on traditional farm based production approach. Experts in the
panel on Promoting Freedom of Belief in Pakistan reiterated the equality
of all religions as enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan. They
also added that education and literature can help shape a more tolerant
future of Pakistan. Curriculum design should be in favor of religious
tolerance in the country.
Experts at the panel on Gender Equality
highlighted the significant role that women play in the social, economic
and political realms across various parts of South Asia. Gender
equality and empowerment require minimal foreign aid but active
administrative direction, community participation, and commitment
towards implementation of decisions in favor of gender inclusion.
On
improvement in service delivery in Pakistan, experts highlighted that
there is need for citizen empowerment to bolster accountability of those
in-charge. Faisal Shaheen, Visiting Associate at SDPI, observed that
there is need for coordination between state and non-state actors for
improvement in service delivery. Khaleel Ahmed Tetley from RSPN observed
that communities should be mobilized to demand accountability of
politicians with regards to service delivery in the country.
The
panel on the role of ICT in economic development discussed the
background of ICT in Pakistan as well as presented a cross-country
comparison of technology growth. Pakistan is one of the fastest
developing markets for the mobile financial services in the developing
world. Studies quoted that adoption of 3G can lead to economic benefits
including enhanced socio-economic development and increased employment.
Financial services through e-banking have the potential to increase GDP
up to 5% by 2020. Speakers stressed that Pakistan must formulate its own
National Broadband Plan.