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April 8, 2020

Sugar, wheat crises: Decisions will speak themselves after 25th

Top Story

April 8, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Chairing the federal cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan said he had come to power to rid the nation of the mafia and the government decisions would speak themselves after April 25.

He said action against those responsible for the sugar and wheat crises would be in accordance with the law and the Constitution and no hurdle would be tolerated in this regard.

The cabinet saw an open discussion on all aspects of the sugar and wheat crises.

The prime minister was paid tribute for taking a bold and courageous stand on a serious issue.

Briefing the media about the federal cabinet's decisions Special Assistant to the Prime Mister on Information and Broadcasting Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan said the prime minister expressed his extreme displeasure at the threats hurled at the members of the Inquiry Commission on sugar and wheat crises and warned of a strict action if threats did not cease.

The prime minister emphasized plugging gaps in the related institutions.

On the premier’s direction, Special Assistant to the PM on Accountability Shahzad Akbar presented the inquiry report.

The report said when the sugar prices were fluctuating, especially when the ministry concerned had submitted a report to the ECC, two million tons of the commodity were available in the country.

The ECC was told that the growers had a bumper crop but the sugar mill owners refused to procure the crop taking plea that they already had enough stocks.

She said as per report, it was brought to the notice of the prime minister that poor growers had their crop ready but the mill owners were not buying it.

It was recommended to the prime minister that consultations should be held with the sugar mills association to safeguard the growers and evolve an export-oriented mechanism.

It was further recommended that even if the mill owners had enough stocks, they should start production and export the surplus.

The government allowed sugar export but no subsidy was given at the federal level.

She said the cabinet was also informed that a delegation of sugar mills at the head of Salman Shahbaz Sharif met the then prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and got allocated Rs20 billion subsidy on the request of sugar mills in 2017.

Moreover, the subsidy was given in 2014 and 2018 and the Sindh government doled out Rs20 billion subsidy, especially to the benefit of Omni Group, which was facing a reference and in which incumbent Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and PPP leadership was also nominated.

The prime minister again told the cabinet that the government was taking every possible step to protect the small farmers and growers and ensure availability of sugar at cheaper rates to consumers.

Keeping this end in view, this government increased the sugarcane price for the first time after 2014.

When the premier saw increase in the sugar price and difficulties of the masses, he ordered a probe into the matter.

Dr. Firdous regretted that the sugar policy was never subjected to reforms but the PTI government was engaged in bringing about a new policy in line with the modern day needs and the Competition Commission of Pakistan, which was supposed to safeguard consumer interests and break cartels, will also be reformed and modernized.

The cabinet also approved referral of the Kacchi Canal inquiry from the FIA to the NAB besides proposals for revamping, reconstructing and reorganizing the Evacuee Trust Property Board and utilizing its properties in the health, education and housing sectors.

The prime minister expressed his deep displeasure at the maltreatment of doctors in Balochistan and reminded the provinces that doctors and paramedics were their vanguard in the war against the coronavirus and it will be successful only when their safety and protection was ensured.

Special Assistant the PM on National Health Services Dr. Zafar Mirza briefed the cabinet about the coronavirus cases and the government’s measures to provide relief to the corona-hit labour force.

The forum was told that 39,000 personal protection kits had been dispatched to all the provinces for protection of paramedical staff handling the coronavirus patients.

However, the meeting decided to directly dispatch the kits to the medical superintendents of hospitals when it was informed that hitherto the kits had not be distributed to doctors, nurses and other related staff putting their life in danger.

Special Assistant on Youth Affairs Usman Dar informed the cabinet that 7,17,119 youths had so far been registered with the Corona Relief Tigers Force, which would be working at district, tehsil and union council level across the country.

Special Assistant on Social Protection Dr Sania Nishtar briefed the cabinet on the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme.

The cabinet was informed that the federal government was providing cash assistance of Rs12,000 to over 12 million deserving families under the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program following the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

The deserving families would get cash assistance after biometric verification through over 18,065 sale points or retail shops of Habib Bank Limited and Bank Al-Falah throughout the country.

The cabinet also approved provision of broadband internet service through Universal Service Fund to 62 districts of the country.