KARACHI: The leader of opposition in Sindh Assembly and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Firdous Shamim Naqvi called on Sunday for setting up a sugar inquiry commission to probe into misgivings regarding sugar mills' operations in the province, further demanding that a financial emergency be imposed in Sindh.
Addressing a press conference along with other PTI leaders, Naqvi claimed that Prime Minister Imran Khan had not given any subsidies to sugar mills and pointed out that of 34 sugar mills in Sindh, 18 were owned by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari's associates.
Accusing the Sindh government of "destroying" Thatta and Dadu sugar mills, the PTI leader further alleged that it had taken loans worth Rs53 billion through a private conglomerate. He demanded that the National Accountability Bureau take to task those responsible for "manipulating" the joint investigation team's (JIT's) report on the issue.
Also speaking on the occasion, PTI leader Haleem Adil Sheikh, too, accused the Sindh government of committing theft in collusion with the conglomerate, adding that the latter "had been rewarded while Sindh is made to suffer."
Sheikh claimed that it was in fact former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi who had approved a subsidy of Rs20 billion for sugar mills and Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah who had ordered a subsidy of Rs4 billion.
He further criticised the provincial government for "destroying every institution in Sindh," while its masses remained deprived of education. "To add to it, the health minister is nowhere to be seen [in this health crisis]," he commented, adding that "the people of Sindh want to get rid of looters and thieves [ruling them]."
MNA Jai Prakash also said that the condition of Thar had continued to worsen after the enforcement of the 18th Amendment, under which the subjects of health and education were devolved to provinces.
Hunaid Lakhani, who also heads the Baitul Mal, commented that the PPP had brought the province to the brink of disaster.
Meanwhile, Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani lashed out at the PTI for "spreading propaganda" against the PPP and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz in the name of the sugar inquiry.
He claimed that a JIT had been formed to probe the matter of subsidies raised by the commission and references had been prepared after the inquiry was completed. "If this had happened earlier, then we ask Prime Minister Imran Khan and his associates why the commission was formed," he added.
Ghani stated that according to the commission, there had to be an investigation into the Rs300 billion paid by the public as a result of increasing sugar prices in the fiscal years 2018-2020.
Pointing out that the main reason for the increase in sugar prices, according to the commission report, was the import of one million tonnes of sugar and later the permission to import another 100,000 tonnes of sugar, the minister pointed out that the decision to do so had been taken by the PM and his cabinet.
"I ask the National Accountability Bureau why it does not see this corruption of Rs300 billion and why it did not take action against the PM and his associates after the commission report," he stated, adding that the accountability watchdog should show its neutrality by taking action against those who had robbed the masses by making sugar expensive.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 1st, 2020.
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