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Web Desk
April 7, 2020

Awan says premier 'greatly displeased' over threats to committee investigating sugar crisis


Web Desk
Tue, Apr 07, 2020
Geo News/Screengrab via The News

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed "great displeaure" after he was informed that the commission investigating the sugar crisis was being threatened,   SAPM Dr Firdous Awan said Tuesday, a day after the major cabinet reshuffle in which Khusro Bakhtiar was removed as food security minister.

"Today, the prime minister expressed 'great displeasure'over threats being given to the sugar crisis probe commission. He said that strict action will be taken against such elements if they make threats [to the inquiry commission] again," SAPM Awan said  during a press conference on the cabinet meeting held earlier today during which the inquiry report on the sugar crisis was discussed.

The premier will take action against those involved in the sugar crisis after the commission probing the matter submits a final report on April 25, she said. 

"PM Imran reassured the cabinet once again that he has been working to protect small farmers and to provide sugar at cheap rates to the public," she said.

"To ensure that sugar be provided at cheap rates to the public, PM Imran ordered this inquiry so that the facts would come forward," she said.

"In our sugar policy, there have been no reforms, the sort of reforms that are needed to protect the rights of the people," she said citing the inquiry committee.

"The inquiry committee has not only raised questions on but it also identified the lacking in our system," she said, adding: "A foolproof and transparent system will be introduced to ensure transparency and that such an artificial crisis is not created again."

Because our party's name is Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, we will ensure that insaf [justice] prevails, she said citing PM Imran.

She said that Sindh government, in 2014 and 2018, gave subsidy to OMNI group that is now facing a reference. 

SAPM Awan said that the cabinet had been informed that Salman Shehbaz  heading a delegation convinced then-prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in 2017 to issue a Rs20 billion subsidy for sugar.

'Action against against profiteers'

The prime minister seems adamant on taking action against anyone found involved in the sugar and wheat crises. On Sunday, he took to Twitter to announce that action will be taken against the perpetrators of those who had contributed to the artificial crises.

“After these reports come out no powerful lobby will be able to profiteer at the expense of our public,” he had tweeted.

The sugar, wheat crisis

In January, prices of wheat surged across the country after it emerged that the staple food's quantity had decreased significantly in markets across the country.

The News had reported that the wheat crisis originated in Sindh and then spread to other provinces. It said that corruption probes against officials in the Sindh government discouraged many in the province from the procurement of wheat that would otherwise have increased existing surplus wheat stock. At one point, the reserve stock was as low as 0.2 million tons.

The problem was exacerbated by a decision to export 200,000 to 400,000 tons of wheat, keeping in view surplus stocks on the basis of estimates presented by the Ministry of National Food Security and Research, but the actual exports of wheat crossed 640,000 tons.

Shortly after the wheat crisis ended, sugar prices went up as the product was found scarce in short supply in markets across the country. Hoarding and an artificial increase in the prices of the commodity were cited as the main reasons for the surge in the prices of the product.