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April 6, 2020

Sugar, flour crises report: Govt, opposition in war of words

Top Story

April 6, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The government and the opposition on Sunday indulged into a war of words and allegations and counter allegations over the inquiry report of sugar and flour crisis with the prime minister vowing not to spare any profiteer, and opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif saying that he is waiting for action against those found responsible for the crisis in the report. Imran Khan said he was waiting for the detailed forensic report by the high-powered commission before taking action, assuring the nation that no powerful lobby would be able to profiteer at the expense of public.

In his reaction to the widely discussed inquiry committee report on wheat and sugar crisis, which went viral within no time on social media as well, the prime minister said, as promised, the preliminary reports into sudden price hike of sugar and wheat had been released immediately without alteration and tampering.

In tweets, the prime minister said, “I await the detailed forensic reports now by the high-powered commission, which will come out on 25 April, before taking action”. He emphasised, “InshaAllah, after these reports come out no powerful lobby will be able to profiteer at the expense of our public.”

“As promised preliminary reports into sudden price hikes of sugar&wheat have been released without alteration/tampering,” he emphasised. The prime minister pointed out that this was unprecedented in Pakistan’s history. Previous political leadership, he noted, because of their vested interests and compromises, lacked moral courage to order and release such reports. He noted, “This is unprecedented in Pak's history. Prev pol ldrships bec of their vested interests&compromises lacked moral courage to order&release such reports.”

Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif said the report was a charge sheet against the prime minister and Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar. He said that the report contains some "serious revelations" which need to be probed further. Shahbaz Sharif said that the coming days will reveal what punishment the prime minister -- who is also the chairman of the Economic Coordination Committee -- will decide for himself and his chief minister "over such a massive scale of corruption and nepotism".

Meanwhile, Special Assistant to PM on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, in a media briefing in Sialkot, said that Shahbaz Sharif need not act all high and mighty over the report. "This report has also mentioned a Rs1.4 billion subsidy given to Suleman Shahbaz," she said, referring to Shahbaz Sharif's son.

She said that the current government had provided Rs3 billion in subsidies, whereas the previous PML-N government had provided subsidies worth Rs22 billion during four years. "Let's see when Shahbaz Sharif calls his dutiful son over from London for punishment," she said.

Suleman, in his defence, has claimed that the Rs1.4 bn figure "is a lie concocted by Imran Khan and his cronies". He has shared a screenshot of year-on-year allocation of subsidy to sugar exports on his Twitter account, showing a little over Rs330 million in subsidy from 2014-2018 and no subsidy for 2018-19.

Meanwhile, the PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb urged the government to take action against those involved in the crisis. “We have a report that proves what we had been saying about these two (Tareen, Bakhtiar) all along. Action needs to be taken against them,” the PML-N leader told Geo News. She added that the individuals should be removed from their post, adding that the PM should not wait till April 25.

The PPP demanded action against those responsible for the crisis of wheat and sugar as reported in the FIA’s investigation report which it said has exposed the so-called good governance of Imran Khan's government.

The PPP Secretary General, Syed Nayyar Hussain Bukhari, said the ATM machines of Imran Khan are proving to be thieves. He alleged that Imran Khan is equally involved in the scandals of wheat, sugar, medicines and masks because all the people who have done this mega corruption are his closest confidants and advisers. Bukhari said that theft has become normal for the close friends of Imran Khan in the name of Riasat-e-Madina. He said there was no leniency against thieves in Riasat-e-Madina and those responsible of the crisis were also in the PTI governments in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “All the perpetrators are among the cronies and economic facilitators of Imran Khan. Thus Imran Khan is personally responsible of the crisis and theft,” he said.

According to the FIA report, the PPP secretary general said the permission to export sugar was given first and then the subsidies were awarded and the sugar price jumped from Rs55 per kilogram to Rs71 per kilogram. Bukhari said the ‘sugar friends’ of the Prime Minister Imran Khan made money twice with the crisis, first by exporting sugar and getting subsidies and then by getting more profit margins in the domestic markets. He said the entire nation is waiting for action against ‘sugar friends’ of Imran Khan.

A report by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) released on Saturday claims that top PTI members were among those who gained from the recent sugar crisis in the country. An investigation into the crisis had been ordered by Prime Minister Imran Khan in February.

Among the people named in the FIA report are Jahangir Tareen and a brother of Minister for National Food Security Khusro Bakhtiar. Tareen was said by the report to have benefitted the most from the sugar crisis followed by Bakhtiar's brother.

The report also claims that the companies belonging to Moonis Elahi — an ally of the PTI— profited from the sugar crisis. Moonis Elahi is Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi's son and a key member of the PML-Q.