ISLAMABAD: The Sharif family has complied with the Supreme Court order about stopping crushing at three sugar mills of the family, though it may have repercussions for the poor farmers of south Punjab.
"We have suspended crushing operations at three sugar mills," said Aziz Abbas Sharif. Punjab Chief Minister’s son, Salman Shehbaz, also confirmed suspension of operations in their sugar mills after the SC verdict.
A wave of unrest, uneasiness and anxiety spread among the local farmers of the poverty-hit south Punjab when they heard about closure of three sugar mills in the area. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's General Secretary Jehangir Tareen had challenged working of Sharifs' three sugar mills in the area. He is not only political rival of the Sharif family but also a business competitor, as he owns one sugar mill in that part of the province.
The area farmers told The News that Tareen’s political and business rivalry was costing them their produce. Owners of Sharifs' mills claimed that due to closure of three sugar mills, farmers will have to bear Rs6 billion collective losses. The court decision has come in the middle of the crushing season, which will end in March, they said, adding that due to closure of the mills, they were unable to pay farmers their dues on time.
They told this correspondent that each sugar mill purchases sugarcane worth around Rs3 billion from farmers annually. Farmers in Rahim Yar Khan and Bahawalpur had cultivated sugar crop keeping in view the demand of three sugar mills in the area. Petitioner's sugar mill is located at a distance of 150km from the cultivation area, and it is not possible for farmers to supply their produce there.
Farmers and others alleged that Tareen just wanted to safeguard his personal interests and that was why he moved the court against Sharifs’ mills. They said that after the court decision, Tareen's mill lacked the capacity to crush sugarcane of the entire area.
A farmer, Sajjad, told The News that the court completely ignored the ground realities while giving its ruling. He said that the court should also have kept in mind repercussions of the ruling for the sugarcane growers of the area.