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Friday May 24, 2024

Blame game: Ex-PM Kakar says wheat imported under SRO passed during PTI govt

“I will appear before the wheat [inquiry] committee if it summons me,” says ex-interim premier

By Web Desk
May 05, 2024
Former caretaker prime minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar speaks to prominent entrepreneurs and businessmen in Karachi. — PMO/File
Former caretaker prime minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar speaks to prominent entrepreneurs and businessmen in Karachi. — PMO/File

Former caretaker premier Anwaar-ul-Haq has denied any wrongdoing in the import of wheat during his tenure, saying he is ready to face an investigation into the scandal.

In an interview with a local TV channel on Sunday, the ex-interim PM said his administration only “encouraged” the private sector to import wheat under Statutory Regulatory Orders (SRO) passed during the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government to bridge the demand-supply gap.

“I will appear before the wheat [inquiry] committee if it summons me,” the ex-premier added.

Earlier this week, incumbent Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif constituted an inquiry committee to probe the excessive wheat import.

The inquiry committee headed by Cabinet Division Secretary Kamran Afzal has been tasked with fixing responsibilities for the import of wheat beyond demand and permission to open LCs after the month of February.

During the month of March, the private sector was allowed to import 6.91 million metric tonnes of wheat worth Rs57.192 billion.

In today’s interview, Kakar — now a senator — said no new law was introduced to import wheat during his tenure and his government only “encouraged the private” sector to import the staple crop.

The former caretaker premier said the private sector was allowed to import wheat under the Statutory Regulatory Orders (SRO) that was issued during the tenure of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government.

Kakar said his administration only encouraged the private sector to import the wheat under the same SRO in a bid to save taxpayers’ money.

The former PM also said the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) estimated that 3 to 4 million metric tonnes of wheat are required in the country.

He also denied the allegations that corruption or any wrongdoing was committed in the import of the staple crop.

Responding to a question that the excessive wheat imports caused a Rs400 billion loss to the exchequer, the former interim premier said such allegations were akin to “inspector Jamshed stories that he heard in his childhood”.

The federal government has been caught in a fix as the Balochistan and Punjab governments are unable to purchase wheat from farmers due to a surplus in stock which, so far, is being attributed to excessive import of the crop.

Due to the non-purchase of wheat by the provincial governments, wheat is being sold at a lower price than the official rate — a matter of grave concern for the farmers.

Sources told Geo News that the Ministry of National Food Security had apprised PM Shehbaz's cabinet that 28.18 million tonnes of wheat was produced last year and the caretaker government decided to import 2.45 million tonnes more.

The premier was also told that the additional wheat import caused a loss of more than Rs300 billion to the national exchequer.