Saturday July 20, 2024

There is much more in ‘Research’ than meets the eye!

By Mobarik A Virk
September 13, 2017

Islamabad :Let me start with the ‘unconditional apology’ first, which I extend to the ‘Non-Governmental Organisations’ (NGOs) operating in the country. Be those the ‘National’ or the ‘International’ ones. I have no biases against these organisations. In fact I actively take part in activities of some of these organisations.

But in the past Pakistan’s economy has been hit hard when the ‘international donors’ funded some local Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), to specifically target country’s major export-based industries.

The over enthusiastic employees of those selected NGOs launched an offensive, first against the football industry and then switched to hand-knotted carpet industry of Sialkot in Pakistan. The issue raised was employment of child labour in both these industries.

As a result both the industries suffered when a large number of international importers not only banned import of these items from Pakistan, especially footballs, but there were reports that many orders in the pipeline were cancelled too.

Similar situation sprung up a decade or so ago when some reports emerged in international media regarding high level of contamination in the sea waters within Pakistan’s limits. As a result the fisheries industries suffered a great blow and the best quality fish and prawn were found being sold at throw away prices throughout the country, mainly in Karachi, because the international orders were cancelled.

I would avoid mentioning the use of ‘Polio Campaign’ to find elusive terrorists! However, this time a report submitted by a Pakistani researcher, funded by a French Professor, published in the ‘Science Advances’ Journal is likely to lend a serious blow to the agricultural exports from Pakistan, especially rice!

And now as if our own government’s ‘cruelties’ towards the farmers were not enough to destroy the agricultural sector, which once had been the backbone of national economy, this scientist has come up with a research article in this international magazine, raising concerns regarding presence of arsenic in water way above the acceptable levels set by the WHO.

If substantiated further and exploited by those who are always looking for a flaw to hit our interests, this offers an excellent opportunity to exploit as by using this report they can hit Pakistan’s agricultural and fruit exports, especially rice, which obviously needs a lot of water.

But there are some shocking aspects in this research, published by Syed Ali Musstjab Ali Akbar Shah Eqani. He drew his conclusions and put some 6 million people all over the country at ‘high risk’ on the basis of only 1,148 water samples collected and tested from all over Pakistan!

As against it, there is another similar survey underway, being conducted by Dr Abida Farooqi, the Assistant Professor with the Department of Environmental Sciences of the Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU).

The focus of this survey by Dr Abida Farooqi is the province of the Punjab alone. And her team has collected 16,000 samples from selected districts, declared vulnerable, so far. The results of her survey, so far, show that 80 per cent of samples are safe while 20 per cent have shown presence of arsenic in those.

She says that out of these 20 per cent, in which arsenic is found, 10 per cent carry 10 micro grams of arsenic, which is declared safe in accordance with the standards laid down by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

She also claimed that the level of contamination up to 50 micro grams is considered safe in the developing and underdeveloped countries. She is sceptical as to why this Pakistani researcher has published such a research paper in an international magazine which will raise serious concerns about water contamination in Pakistan.

“The research paper published by him will not help the people of Pakistan but will definitely reflect adversely on Pakistan’s agri exports,” Dr Abida was of the opinion. Just like most of the young children, who were working in the football and carpet industry, learning skills and earning at the same time, were kicked out of the factories and were left to beg in the streets and roads or get engaged in some other industry as unskilled labourers!

We heard that the Senate of Pakistan has already taken up the matter and has rejected the findings of the research report published in the ‘Science Advances’ journal. But the matter is of far serious concern for the whole country and needs much more than just a rejection of the Upper House of the Parliament.

How about setting up an inquiry committee to investigate the matter, not only to confirm the authenticity of the ‘Research’ and the methods used for the purpose as well as the motives behind carrying out such a research in such a hasty manner?