Govt, opposition bicker over wheat, sugar report

PML-N president accuses PM of trying to protect culprits


​ Our Correspondent April 27, 2020
PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif. PHOTO: RADIO PAKISTAN

LAHORE/SIALKOT: PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday launched a broadside against Prime Minister Imran Khan for the delay in the forensic report of the commission investigating the recent sugar crisis, describing it as proof of the premier’s “admission of guilt”.

On the other hand, Special Assistant on Information and Broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan emphatically stated that the forensic report would be made public

This comes as PM’s aide on accountability Shahzad Akbar tweeted that the federal cabinet would consider the commission’s request for a delay on Tuesday.

“The government cannot hide facts from people by delaying the report,” the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly said in a statement a day after the Sugar forensic commission, which was supposed to submit the report on Saturday, requested the federal government to give it three more weeks.

“The delay proves that the government stole Rs100 billion. It is trying to protect those responsible for the sugar crisis," Shehbaz maintained.

“Hiding the report won’t hide Imran Khan's crimes. The nation knows who stole wheat and sugar. There is no need for another inquiry or forensic audit,” he added.

The PML-N president said the federal government, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet and the people who approved the subsidies were responsible for the crisis.

He called for allowing his party men, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and former federal minister Khurram Dastagir, to be allowed to appear before the inquiry commission to present information so that the matter could be cleared.

On April 4, the prime minister had ordered making the reports of the sugar and wheat crises public.

He directed the committee on sugar to conduct a forensic analysis of its findings and pledged not to spare those found guilty of creating and profiting off the crises after he received the report on April 25.

Earlier, PM Imran had formed two high-powered committees headed by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Director General Wajid Zia to probe into circumstances that led to the wheat and flour controversy and the reasons behind the increase in sugar prices in the country.

Shocking as it may seem, the leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) were among those who benefited the most from the sugar crisis in the country.

According to the report, PTI former secretary general Jahangir Khan Tareen and a brother of ex-minister for National Food Security Makhdoom Khusro Bukhtiar were the major beneficiaries of the sugar crisis.

As per the findings of the report, the companies owned and controlled by Jahangir Khan Tareen (JDW) exported 17.24% of its total production and availed 22.71% of the total export subsidy amounting to Rs561 million.

The companies owned and controlled by Makhdum Omer Sheryar – a relative of Makhdoom Khusro Bukhtiar – (RYK Group) had exported 31.17% of its total production and availed 18.31% of the total export subsidy amounting to Rs452 million.

Surprisingly, the committee had found that the Punjab government was providing subsidy for the export of sugar at a time when the price of the commodity was increasing in the domestic market.

Out of 0.762 million tonnes of sugar exported, 0.474 million tonnes (62%) was exported before the withdrawal of subsidy, while the remaining 38% was exported after the withdrawal.

It was also stated in the report that Rs3 billion were allocated by the Punjab government for the subsidy from January 2019 onwards but Rs2.47 billion were utilised from January 1 to May 24 last year.

Addressing a news conference in Sialkot, Special Assistant on Information and Broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan has emphatically stated that the forensic report into the wheat flour and sugar crises will be made public.

“People will be apprised about the whole facts behind the crises,” said the prime minister’s aide while addressing a news conference in Sialkot on Sunday.

She strongly rejected Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif's allegations about delay in the presentation of the report. “Prime Minister Imran Khan believes in across-the-board accountability and this is why he formed a commission to unmask the real faces behind the crisis.”

She said all the responsible institutions were made part of the commission and since it had to carry out forensic audit of last three years; therefore, it required time to complete the process in the most transparent manner.

She said the commission has demanded to further extend its period for three weeks and “the request will be presented before the cabinet for approval”.

Firdous said “Time warrants greater unity and harmony in our ranks” but regretted that the opposition leader resorted to allegations against the prime minister in order to keep himself politically alive.

“No family member of the prime minister is involved in the scam,” stated the special assistant categorically.

She said a relief package for industrial workers has been prepared which will be approved by the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet on Monday.

She said the package was aimed at protecting the rights and livelihoods of the industrial workers. “This is only possible when we will shoulder the burden of the industries during these testing times.”

Therefore, she said, the package envisaged relief measures for the owners of the industries and factories.

Firdous said the testing capacity for coronavirus cases is being enhanced and by the end of May it will be raised to 20,000. “We currently have forty labs which will be enhanced to sixty.”

The special assistant stressed that responsibility rests with different segments of society, particularly religious scholars to play their role to contain and defeat this contagion.

She expressed the confidence that Ulema will fulfil their responsibility regarding implementation of the 20-point Ramazan guidelines in order to avoid the spread of the virus.

Firdous said doctors and paramedical staff are fighting as frontline soldiers in the war against Covid-19 pandemic. She said the government is committed to ensuring the safety of doctors by providing all necessary equipment to them. We value their services during these testing times.”

She said, “People still haven’t understood the gravity of the threat posed by the novel coronavirus yet.”

“We have been doing our work, but the public is still not practicing social distancing and self-isolation,” she lamented.

It is very necessary to follow the protocols to safeguard yourself and those around you from COVID-19, she said.

“If and where a lacking is observed, it should be immediately corrected,” the special assistant said, adding that only God can help the nation in its fight against the pandemic.

With input from Agencies

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