Researchers say specimens of rare breeds were worth significantly more.
ISLAMABAD: A recently relieved minister from central Punjab sold off as many as 63 Azakhaili bulls, buffaloes, Achai cows and other valuable animals which had been rescued from war zones in Swat and Bajaur for an unusually low price of Rs 1.8 million.
These rare breeds were the result of research conducted by the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (Parc) over the last one year to gain better meat and milk yield.
According to sources, the allegedly fraudulent auction of these rare animals was said to have been arranged by the new team at Parc and Narc within a week of the departure of Parc’s former chairman, Dr Zafar Altaf, who refused to allow the sale to proceed. Sources say that the auction was arranged to allow influential politicians to buy the animals at very low prices for their own personal farms.
Earlier, Altaf had sent a team of experts to war zones to bring animals to Parc and the National Agricultural Research Council (Narc) so the breeds could be conserved for the locals of those areas to benefit from them.
An official said that the sale by the minister was bound to deliver a serious blow to the ongoing research on the animals in question. He added that the minister had sold off over 63 rare cattle breeds for the significantly low price of Rs1.8 million which suggested foul play. According to some officials, the price of one of these buffaloes and bulls is worth more than Rs1,000,000.
The alleged scam surfaced when a member of the Animal Sciences Division Dr AN Naqvi wrote a letter to Parc acting chairman Dr Afzal and other officials to inform them that the valuable animals meant for research had been sold off without her knowledge.
She said that the Achai cattle, a small-sized breed, was brought in from Bajaur. Achai cattle are able to survive and produce milk under extreme climatic conditions, suitable for grazing on steep hills and can cope with travelling long distances. Compared to other breeds, the Achai cattle is also tick-resistant. The Azakhaili buffalo was brought in from Swat.
“The auction is completely non-transparent if no representative of the finance wing or the auction committee is present at the time,” said Dr Khalid, a member of the finance division at Parc.
The acting chairman Parc, when contacted, defended the auction and told The Express Tribune that it was not Parc’s responsibility to conserve animals. He said that the animals had been a burden on Parc and Narc which was why they had been auctioned off following the orders of the director of Narc, who he said was authorised to do so.
Dr Afzal dismissed the notion that the animals were sold off for a petty sum to oblige a former minister. He also rejected reports by Dr Naqvi that the animals were a rare breed. He added that the auctioning of such animals was a routine matter at Narc and that all required procedure was carried out before the sale. He, however, said he was unaware about the number of animals that had been auctioned off or for how much.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 27th, 2011.:::ref:tribune:::