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Khaqan doled out Rs20b subsidies

Top Story

May 28, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar Wednesday said out of Rs29 billion subsidy given on sugar in the last five years, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had given most of it and during his short stint, ex-PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had doled out Rs20 billion in 2017. Speaking at a news briefing, he said while the PTI-led federal government had not given subsidy, the Punjab government under Chief Minister Usman Buzdar had given away Rs2.4 billion subsidy. He said this while referring to the commission’s report. Shahbaz pointed out that during the PML-N tenure, more than Rs26 billion subsidy was given away to the sugar industry and noted that the go-ahead for export of 400,000 ton sugar was given in 2017, which he termed an act as a criminal act.

Shahzad Akbar contended that Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, appeared before the commission and failed to give satisfactory answers to the questions but showed himself as the Tarzan before the media afterwards.

Continuing attack on Shahid Khaqan, he said the ex-premier, who considered himself as the most competent person, also headed the Economic Coordination Commission meetings at that time.

He recalled how a sugar mills association delegation, led by Salman Shahbaz, had met him and how a grade-17 officer was forced to come up with a ‘speculative cost of production price of sugar.

He said Fawad Hassan Fawad had written a letter for immediately working out the sugar production cost and it was readily done. While the sugar mill owners, he noted, pocketed billions, the common man was made to bear the brunt.

Salman Shahbaz, he alleged, was the facilitator of the sugar subsidies, while PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif had said there was no link between the subsidies and his son Salman's businesses.

Taking notice of price spiral of sugar, Prime Minister Imran Khan formed a commission to probe the fluctuation in sugar prices and the consequent report was made public as soon as it was received, including the forensic audit.

Referring to a volley of statements of opposition leaders regarding the report, he said, “Perhaps some of our friends had not read the report properly. Opposition didn't understand it, as the report is in English and lengthy as well”.

He said the opposition parties, especially spokespersons of PML-N, were misinterpreting the sugar inquiry report, who needed to study the lengthy document again.

Shahzad Akbar also emphasized that audit matters had been reviewed in the report and that a very important portion in it was the amount of subsidy given by PML-N and specifically by Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

He again said while Shahbaz had isolated himself, the case of TTs against him was in final stages adding that once it was finalised, he would have to answer in court. He observed this while referring to an ongoing probe into telegraphic transfers (TTs), linking the former chief minister.

Shahzad Akbar wondered how was Shahbaz able to purchase expensive residences for his wives in housing societies.

“These expenses were carried out through kickbacks and fake accounts. Shahbaz will have to face the courts once the TT case is finalised.”

He said everyone who harmed the public interest through political manoeuvring or other influences would be held responsible.

Turning his guns to the PPP government in Sindh, he said the leadership gave the most of benefit to Omni Group through subsidies despite having been opposed by the provincial cabinet.

He said Sindh government granted a subsidy of Rs4.12 billion, and of which, Omni Group was the biggest beneficiary.

He also noted that while the Punjab chief minister had appeared before the sugar inquiry commission, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah did not.

Replying to questions, he said though decision had been taken so far, the government could only form a commission and then make its findings public.

“Why not, we will file cases,” Shahzad Akbar said, adding that the government would take action accordingly against those named in the report and spare none.

He said the sugar report had given comprehensive findings and found regulator guilty of not checking the wrongdoings in export of sugar and granting subsidy without calculating cost of production and due diligence.