INTERVIEW: BEGUM SALMA AHMED EXMNA

FOUNDER CHAIRPERSON OF PAKISTAN ASSOCIATION OF WOMEN ENTERPRISES

AMANULLAH BASHAR
July 21 - 27, 2008

Currently, Pakistan is passing through the most crucial period in the face of political and military pressures being put by the united states in our border areas and economic instability due to accumulated losses suffered during last seven eight year.

Begum Salma Ahmed, a business woman turned political is a well known personality both in business circles as well as social and political fronts. She is quite agile and energetic despite her 30 years active participation in trade and industry of this country.

At present she has an affiliation with PML (N) and attached hopes that democratic forces would deliver the goods for the betterment and good of the people of this country.

She however regretted that despite all said and done on the democratic institutions, the bureaucratic pulls are still strong and do things on their own will. She cited an example of Pakistan Association of Women Enterprise which has not been issued license by the DTO (DIRECTORASTE OF TRADE ORGANIZATIONS) even after 4 years, how would you expect that potential of women folk can play their role for economic reforms or revival while things are tied up with the bureaucratic chains. Things would take more time and efforts to get a free society without any gender discrimination in our case?

Pakistan being an agriculture country has enough resources to feed its people but unfortunately this for the first time that country was facing shortage of basic food items like wheat and rice etc besides ever-increasing price hike. She expressed surprise as to why the country was facing the short supply of wheat when it produces even more than its needs, Salma observed.

One thing is quite obvious, She pointed out that cash crop like wheat is being smuggled out to the neighboring countries such as Afghanistan, India and Iran and this cannot happen without the connivance of the border forces special vigilance is required at Afghan and Rajhistan border to check illegal trade of the much sought after crop/ She however emphasized over the attractive support price to the farmers as an incentive to encourage them for more production of wheat or rice in this country. Hence he reiterated that support price is extremely important for sufficient production of wheat crop in Pakistan .

Similarly, sugar cane and sugar industry also need attractive support price and support to the industry to avoid any short supplies in future he strongly recommended.

Besides global economic shocks, Pakistan is also the victim of internal political instability which is also instrumental in gearing up the economic crisis who should be held responsible for internal political instability because this is not imported from outside of the country? Begum Salma Ahmed took time to respond that actually those sitting at the helm of affairs are responsible to improve and revive political stability after being elected with a popular mandate of the people of this country. Now the ball is in their court however the entire blame cannot be shifted on the present government. There were some factors behind that economic instability it was not a one day phenomenon. You know water crisis, fuel crisis and other issues were being cooked up for quite long time but no precautionary measures were adopted to escape from accumulation of these problems resulting in economic disaster like situation. It was definitely a shortsightedness of the people in authority. These problems were inherited to the present government. Now this situation has entered into a complexity which needs to be handled by the experts and technocrats because merely emotional slogans would not serve the purpose.

While commenting on the recent steps taken by the government such as minimum wages of Rs6000 or Rs1000 grants to the needy families, she was of the view that all these are cosmetic steps which have only propaganda value but do not strike at the root cause of the poverty. As far as the democratic government was concerned it is okay because this country was created for democracy and not for the dictatorship of any sort. She quoted speech of Quaid e Azam in which he categorically announced that army would not intervene into democratic process but unfortunately this could not happen and over a period of time we see that you will find army everywhere and at every front in this country. Hence when democracy comes into power after eight years either in pure form or diluted form it would naturally take some time to settle down and put things in order. It is however unfortunately that difficulties have come like an army to destabilize democratic process see the unusual price hike of petroleum products, flood of food inflation, power crisis these challenges have created a real difficult situation for the present government. We did not chalk out master plans to get optimum results of our rich agriculture lands this fault on our part.

There were times even in Gen Zia's rule when we used to produce bumper crops. Now we have the same land and water resources but the results are not the same due to lack of planning. She emphasized for proper planning to our potential economic areas especially the agriculture to steer out of the economic crisis, she recommended.

She said rather regretted that due to unpredictable political situation and economic crisis the foreign investors are taking sidelines and avoid coming to Pakistan . She referred her own experience of such attitude and disclosed that she was about to set up a cement plant with a joint venture of a Middle Eastern Company but now they are avoiding to honor the commitment due to persisting economic political crisis in our economy.

Begum Salama however was hopeful that growth to rebound if proper measures were taken in Financial year 2009 to produce improved crop harvest; the economy should rebound in industrial growth; domestic capacity expansion in fertilizer, cement and oil and gas sectors for which higher financing allocation and foreign investment in the power sector is badly needed.