Minister, importers engage in verbal brawl

NA panel meeting adjourned after clash between Tariq Cheema, soyabean importers


Haseeb Hanif December 01, 2022
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif addressing a joint session of parliament on May 26, 2022, in Islamabad. PHOTO: TWITTER/@NAofPakistan

ISLAMABAD:

National Food Security Minister Tariq Bashir Cheema and representatives of the importers of genetically modified organism (GMO) soyabean engaged in heated arguments during the meeting of a National Assembly committee on Wednesday, forcing the chair to postpone the proceedings halfway.

The National Assembly Standing Committee on National Security and Research met here with its Chairman Rao Ajmal Khan in the chair. The altercation started during a discussion on the issue of soyabean import when the importers insisted on allowing the soyabean import.

However, the minister categorically stated that the import of GMO soyabean was banned in the country, adding that since it could cause cancer, therefore, its import could not be allowed. He added that even the US ambassador had sought clearance of soyabean shipments but he refused.

Cheema said nine shipments of illegally-imported GMO soyabeans had been seized by the Customs Intelligence. He stressed that the law only permitted import of non-GMO soyabean, so if the GMO soyabean was coming to Pakistan since 2015, it was illegal.

During the arguments, the minister irked the chair, when he said that the committee chairman was an advocate for the soyabean importers. “I am nobody's advocate,” an angry Rao Ajmal retorted. He asked the minister to withdraw his words.

In response, the minister demanded of the chair to remove the representative of the soyabean importers from the committee meeting, while the representative asked the minister to leave the committee. Because of the escalation, the committee meeting was adjourned.

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