ISLAMABAD: Legislative body of the Lower House of Parliament on Thursday expressed serious concerns over the low share of Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu Kashmir in agriculture lending. The government has allocated only Rs 1 billion out of a total of Rs 125 billion agriculture loan target assigned by State of Pakistan (SBP) to the Zari Tarqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) for financial year 2017-18. The National Assembly Standing Committee on National Food Security and Research which met with MNA Shakir Bashir Awan in the chair asked ZTBL to increase agriculture lending target of Gilgit-Baltistan to improve the agriculture sector there. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MNA Captain (retd) Muhamamd Safdar said the share of Gilgit-Baltistan in agriculture loans was very low, therefore, the ZTBL needed to increase it. He said that ZTBL needs to provide bulldozers instead of tractors to farmers in Gilgit Baltistan. The committee also expressed anger over the absence of ZTBL president Syed Talat Mahmood in the meeting and issued directives to ensure his presence during the meeting. The ZBTL head of credit Sanauallh while briefing National Standing Committee on National Food Security and Research regarding the total budgetary allocation for agriculture loans for farmers by the ZTBL during financial year 2017-18, he said that out of total lending target of Rs 125 billion, the share of Punjab province is Rs 91 billion, Sindh Rs 18.625 billion, Khyber Pakhunkhawa Rs 8.250 billion, Balochistan Rs 6.125 billion and share of Gilgit Baldistan/ Azad Jammu Kashmir was Rs 1.00 billion. “Out of total agriculture lending target, total share of Punjab was 72.8 percent, Sindh 14.9 percent, Khyber Pakhtunkwa 6.6 percent, Balochistan 4.9 percent and total share of Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu Kashmiris only 0.8 percent”, he said. He said that according to the ZTBL lending criteria, it provided credit facilities primarily to small farmers having 25 acres of irrigated land or 50 acres of non-irrigated area. The maximum loan limit Rs 1.5 billion per borrower, he said, adding that the ZTBL provide 70 percent loan to subsistence farmers, 20 percent to economic farmers and 10 percent to big farmers. Fazal Abbas Maken secretary Ministry of National Food Security and Research asked the ZTBL official to inform the committee about the percentage of disbursement of agriculture loan to farmers and middlemen and how much recalculated. On this Sanaullah said that the ZTBL never disbursed loan to middlemen and it disbursed loans of 93.8 percent to small farmers. Abbas also briefed the committee about the bill “The National Food Safety, Animal and Plant Health Regulatory Authority Bill, 2017”. He said that ministry had further examined the bill and started a study of neighboring countries models, consultation with Ministry of Science and Technology and consultation with private stakeholders. The Ministry has farmed an alternate bill and submitted before the minister, he said. The committee has differed the bill till next meeting. Managing Director, Kisan Support Services Limited (KSSL) also briefed the Committee about the functioning of the department. He informed that the KSSL provide support services in an efficient manner to the ZTBL for the last 11 years and capable of providing support services in other areas as defined in the memorandum and article and association, depending upon the requirements of the ZTBL. He further informed that during the last 11 years of operations, the KSSL has accumulated profit of Rs487.863 million against the ZTBL’s investment of Rs100 million. The meeting was also attended by Tahir Iqbal Chaudhry, Syed Iftikhar-ul-Hassan, Pir Muhammad Aslam Bodla, Shahnaz Saleem, Faqir Sher Muhmmad Bilalani and Dr. Fouzia Hameed MNAs. Published in Daily Times, February 2nd 2018.