Millions of people still deprived of adequate food, moot told


January 19, 2015

KARACHI(PPI): Food insecurity is on the rise as millions of people have failed to find adequate food and nutritious intake due to high food prices. Food insecurity has become one of the major problems in Pakistan and the government has its constitutional obligation to invest in the food sector so as to provide food security to its people. Rural women have less access to basic needs of life such as food, health and education.

This was stated at the proceedings of Pakistan’s first Peoples’ Tribunal on Impact of Food Prices held by a jury comprising Justice (R) Fakhrunnisa Khokhar, former senior judge of Supreme Court of Pakistan, as its head while Justice (R) Nazir Gazi, Barrister Shahida Jamil (former Law minister), and Khalid Habib (former additional attorney general of Pakistan) as members in Lahore.

The panel of four retired jurists said that rising food prices were denying the right to adequate food of the poorest in Pakistan, provoking hunger, malnutrition and social unrest across the country. They unanimously held government responsible for bad food governance in the country and recommended improvements.

The tribunal was held jointly by Action Against Hunger and Malnutrition-Pakistan; Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment and Oxfam Pakistan with objective to highlight issues of poor, especially of women and children, relating to their access to food on affordable prices; and to brainstorm on impact of food prices on food security and nutrition among poor communities in the country.

The event was attended by masses, right activists, lawyers, judges as well as representatives from civil society and media. Irfan Mufti of South Asia Partnership-Pakistan moderated the day-long court proceedings.

Before an audience of around 200 people, the distinguished panel of retired judges heard presentations on four cases of community issues related access to food. During case presentations, presenters also noted violations of the Constitution of Pakistan. After a full day of hearing and proceedings, the Tribunal took the unanimous decision to admit all the cases and recommended that cases to be followed by the government in order to protect right to food of people. The Tribunal specified that the victims in these cases are the poorest community members, especially women and children, who are yet deprived of their right to adequate food.

Tanveer Arif of SCOPE, initiated the proceedings with a brief introduction of AAHM-Pakistan and highlighted the importance of right to food of the poor in Pakistan.

Shahbaz Bokhari, Manager Oxfam GROW in his concluding remarks termed the event as a significant milestone with regard to right to food of poorest in Pakistan. He said that the dreams of food security and health of all would remain a farce until the necessary food items are not provided at affordable prices in the market. Earlier, Qaiser Arafat of Oxfam introduced the GROW Campaign. He said that GROW is a worldwide campaign of Oxfam which is focusing on food security, climate resilience and empowerment of small holders and landless farmers. In Pakistan GROW is supporting AAHM-Pakistan and all other alliances to eliminate hunger and malnutrition from the country.

Justice (R) Fakhrunnisa Khokhar said that food insecurity had become one of the major problems in Pakistan and the government had its constitutional obligation to address and invest in the food sector and ensure food security of its populace. She commended efforts of civil society on their research, advocacy and mobilization services for the food security and asked the government institutions to take on their support for the betterment of people.

Barrister Shahida Jamil, former law minister, said that women are more vulnerable to unstable food prices and food insecurity as compared to men and children in the rural areas of Pakistan. Women have though significant contribution to agricultural production and household food security but poor rural women have the least access to basic needs such as food, health and education.

Justice (R) Nazir Ghazi agreed that food insecurity is on the rise and millions of people have failed to find adequate food and nutritious intake, especially because of high food prices.

At the conclusion of presentations on the part of prosecutors for each of the cases, Malik Tahir Iqbal, senior advocate, presented brief of the pleader.

The tribunal had learned expert panelists including: Dr Aslam Shaheen from Planning Commission of Pakistan; Dr Iftkhar Chairman PARC (Pakistan Agriculture Research Center); Dr Azeem DG NARC (National Agriculture Research Center); Dr Noor Islam DG Research Punjab; Dr Anjum Ali DG Extension Punjab; Dr Wisal Khan of UNICEF; Khadim Hussain Shah of UN WFP; Nasar Hayat of UN FAO; Shahbaz Bokhari of Oxfam; Dr Wajid Pirzada of SAFWCO Foundation; Junaid, Chief of Party USAID-PEEP; and Dr Shimail former president Chamber of Commerce Islamabad.

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