Obituary - Prof. Dr. Iftikhar Ahmad

OBITUARY

PROF. DR. IFTIKHAR AHMAD

April 01, 1952 – June 03, 2016

 

 

What a sad news! Prof. Dr. Iftikhar Ahmad, Program Advisor, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations at Pakistan Representative Office, Islamabad, and Former Chairman, Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, age 64, died on Friday, June 03, 2016, after a cardiac arrest in Islamabad.

Dr. Ahmad was born on April 01, 1952, in Raiwind, District Lahore (present day District Kasur) of the Province of Punjab to Chaudhary Ghulam Muhammad and Saleema Begum. He received his secondary school certificate in 1968 from P.W.R High School, Sukkur, Sindh. The same year he joined the then West Pakistan Agricultural University, Lyallpur (nowadays University of Agriculture, Faisalabad), from where he earned FSc (Agri), BSc (Hons) and MSc (Hons) Agriculture - Plant Pathology in 1970, 1973 and 1976, respectively. He obtained first class with distinction in university examinations and won the Sir William Roberts Scholarship during his MSc (Hons) at UAF and PhD in Plant Biology (1979-1982) at University College of North Wales (presently University of Wales), Bangor, United Kingdom. From 1988-1990, he attended The Botany School, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK as a Visiting Scholar.

During his studies at UAF, he was trained by a number of renowned teachers and researchers including the Late Prof. A. G. Kausar, and the Late Prof. Jaffar Hussain Mirza. Following his masters, he joined as Lecturer in Plant Pathology at UAF on May 05, 1976. In 1983, he joined Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) as Senior Scientific Officer at Crop Disease Research Institute (currently Crop Disease Research Program of the Institute of Plant and Environmental Protection), National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC), Islamabad. By virtue of his outstanding work and professional governance skills, Dr. Ahmad achieved the prestigious position of the Chairman PARC in September 2012, prior to serving in various capacities there, viz. Principal Scientific Officer, Chief Scientific Officer/Deputy Director General, Member Crop Sciences/Natural Resources, Acting Director General and Director General, NARC. He retired from the position of the Chairman PARC, on March 31, 2012.

 

 

CONTRIBUTIONS TO AGRICULTURE:

During early years of his service at PARC, Dr. Ahmad worked with Prof. Dr. Amir Muhammad (Founder and First Chairman of PARC) and the Late Dr. Abdul Hafiz (Former Director FAO of the UN) and benefitted from their expertise and vision. As a distinguished agriculture development expert, one of his premier accomplishments was the establishment of the National Integrated Pest Management Program (National IPM Program). To create the program, he used inventive farm-based teaching and research approach commonly named the Farmer Field Schools or FFSs (Woman Open Schools, Children Ecology Clubs etc.). In establishing the National IPM Program, he, the Father of FFS in Pakistan, was accompanied by a team of talented and diligent scientists, particularly Prof. Dr. Manzoor Hussain Soomro (sitting President, ECO Science Foundation, Islamabad). At the moment, the program is being successfully run and headed by Dr. Tahira Yasmin. Similarly, he reorganized national wheat research group and its collaboration with international organizations, especially International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), and International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), which culminated into the development of high yielding rust resistant wheat varieties in the country. Also, he persuaded CIMMYT to open the first Borlaug International Centre for South Asia (BISA) at NARC, Islamabad.

Knowing the fact that a nation with inadequate education and expertise cannot face the challenges of on-going era if higher education is not its priority, he dedicated himself to the establishment of PARC Institute of Advanced Studies in Agriculture (PIASA). The PIASA allowed him to achieve his dream of integrating teaching, research and extension. He served PIASA as Professor of Plant and Environmental Protection and its Rector from 2011-2012. Moreover, appreciating the reality that an agribusiness enterprise is essential to meet the upcoming challenges of agro-technological development and its transfer to marketable knowledge-based agriculture, Dr. Ahmad on the instructions of the Government of Pakistan (GOP) established PARC Agro-tech Company (Pvt) Limited (PATCO). The company is facilitating both the public and private sector to cooperate, finance and commercialize their novelties and modernizations for the public at PARC Research Park. From 2011-2012, he served PATCO as the Chief Executive Officer.

Likewise, he magnificently led many national and international projects e.g. Australia-Pakistan Agriculture Sector Linkage Program (ASLP) Mango Project and ASLP Citrus Project from 2007-15; Focal Point, UNDP/FAO Project on Policy and Strategy for Rational Use of Pesticides 1999-2001; Focal Point/Member Steering Committee Fodder Livestock Project ICARDA, Syria, 2007-2009; Focal Point, AGFUND/FAO Project on Pesticide Risk Reduction in Women, GOP, 2002-2003; and Focal Point, European Union/FAO Project on IPM for Cotton in Asia, GOP, 2000-2004. In addition, he served as Consultant/Focal Person/Member to various national and international projects/agencies, namely Focal Person, Agriculture/Food Sciences Projects, Higher Education Commission, Islamabad, 2006-2014; UNDP Project, Reforming Agricultural Education in Pakistan “Recommendations for Agricultural Education in Pakistan” 1991; Final Review Mission Member “FAO Cotton IPM in Asia Program, 2004; Member, Pak-New Zealand/Nepal/Iran Joint Working Group for Cooperation in Agriculture and Forestry on behalf of Ministry of National Food Security and Research, GOP, 2007-2015; Member, Policy Advisory Council of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), 2014-2016. Moreover, together with other experts he designed the Pakistan's National Food Security Policy, developing Vision 2025 and 2050.

 

CONTRIBUTIONS TO TEACHING:

I had the honour of first meeting Dr. Ahmad in 1990 at CDRP, NARC, when I was serving the then Barani Agricultural College (BAC), now PMAS-Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi (PMAS-AAUR), as Assistant Professor. I found him a firm believer in the integration of education, research, and extension. So, along with his regular duties he devoted himself to teaching and supervising postgraduate students of various institutions in the country, specifically PMAS-Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi; Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad; University of Agriculture, Faisalabad; University of the Punjab, Lahore; Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Agricultural University, Peshawar; and Sindh Agricultural University, Tando Jam. He trained more than thirty five MSc/MSc Hons/MPhil and twelve PhD students, notably Prof. C. A. Rauf (PMAS-AAUR), Ex-President, Pakistan Phytopathological Society; Prof. S. M. Iqbal, Head, Department of Microbiology, University of Haripur, Haripur; Dr. Abdul Rauf Bhutta, Rtd. Director General, Federal Seed Certification and Registration Department, Islamabad; Dr. Atiq-Ur-Rehman Rattu, National Coordinator (Wheat), NARC; Dr. Javed Iqbal Mirza, Incharge, CDRP Substation Murree; Dr. Shazia Iftikhar, Associate Professor, Department of Environmental Sciences, Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi; Dr. Munawar Raza Kazmi, Country Manager (Pakistan), ACIAR; and Dr. Farooq Shah, University of Swansea, UK. Moreover, at the time of his death six PhD and two MPhil students were associated with him for research. Also, he always remained an active member of different committees of the Higher Education Commission, Islamabad, constituted for the development of curricula of various disciplines of agriculture/plant sciences.

 

During the early days of BAC, Dr. Ahmad together with the Late Dr. Muhammad Aslam, Dr. Manzoor Hussain Soomro, Dr. Irfan Ul Haque, Dr. Abdul Rauf Bhutta and Dr. Anjum Munir, provided support to the newly established Plant Pathology Department through teaching courses and supervising postgraduate student’s research without receiving any honorarium. In addition, he served Member, University Selection Board, the Academic Council, Advance Studies and Research Board, Board of Study-Plant Pathology for a long time there.

Throughout the course of his career, Dr. Ahmad published more than 400 hundred scientific papers/abstracts/extension articles/study reports and reviews  accompanied by authorship and co-authorship of various books, for example Seed Pathological Techniques and Their Application (2001) and Textbook of Introductory Plant Pathology (2005) published by National Book Foundation, Islamabad. He travelled countrywide and worldwide and was Patron of Pakistan Phytopathological Society and Patron in Chief of Society of Facilitators and Trainers (SOFT) together with  member of twenty two national and international societies and professional bodies comprising Pakistan Nematological Society, Myco-Pathological Society of Pakistan, Pakistan Botanical Society, World Wide Fund for Nature Pakistan, American Phytopathological Society, British Society for Plant Pathology, Cambridge Philosophical Society and Royal Society of Biology. Similarly, he attended more than sixty national and eighty international conferences/seminars/workshops apart from organizing fifty five conferences/seminars/workshops in the country. As well, he served as editor and reviewer of various books and journals. He was a postgraduate external examiner and member of technical committees of various scientific institutions like Pakistan Science Foundation, Islamabad. At numerous occasions, he represented Pakistan at the international fora owing to his area of expertise.

 

HONOURS AND AWARDS:

The honors and awards Dr. Ahmad received are a tribute to the impact he made on his field. Accordingly, in recognition to his superb performance in uplifting agriculture he was conferred upon with many professional awards during his untiring career, such as Best Research Paper Award-1995, National seminar on R & D of Potato Production, NARC; PARC Scientist of the Year Award-1999; PARC Scientist Association Award-1999; Pakistan Academy of Sciences Gold Medal-1999; Contribution to Plant Pathology Award-1999, 2nd National Conference of Plant Pathology, UAF; FAO World Food Day Shield-2004, Nat IPM Program - FAO Regional Cotton IPM in Asia Program; PARC Silver Jubilee Award-2006; and Norman Borlaug Award in the Discipline of Plant Protection-2006.

 

Dr. Ahmad is survived by his wife, daughter Maryam, sons Misbah and Burhan, granddaughters Rumesa and Fatima, an elder brother, and four sisters.  His passing is a major setback to agriculture and in particular to the discipline of Plant Protection. Certainly, he will be seriously missed but his warmth, kindness and gentle personality will be remembered forever and we all will cherish the beautiful memories he has left behind. His contributions will have a long-term impact on the agriculture of our country and I am confident that we all will continue his task and vision with complete devotion.

 

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS:

1. Ahmad, I. 1982. Phosphate distribution and metabolism in cereal infected with biotrophic fungi. PhD thesis,   University College of North Wales, Bangor, United Kingdom. (Supervisor: Dr. R. Whitbread).

2. Ahmad, I. 1976. Studies on Diplodia boll rot of cotton. M.Sc. (Hons) thesis, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad. (Supervisor: Dr. Jaffer Hussain Mirza).

 

Author: Chaudhary Abdul Rauf, Professor of Plant Pathology, Department of Plant Pathology, PMAS-Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi-46300, and Ex-President Pakistan Phytopathological Society.
Email: abdul.rauf@uaar.edu.pk.