PA debates wheat crisis amid opposition calls for arrests

Food minister promises federal inquiry results soon

Rana Yasif May 14, 2024


In a fiery session, opposition lawmakers in the Punjab Assembly demanded the arrest of those responsible for the wheat crisis, while accusing the government of being mere spectators to the farmers' plight.

Opposition leaders criticised the Punjab government for its alleged inaction in addressing the concerns of farmers, warning that this negligence could exacerbate the situation in the future.

Food Minister Bilal Yaseen, during the fifth day of general discussions on wheat procurement, sought to dispel perceptions of government indifference, stating that a federal-level inquiry was underway.

He assured the House that Punjab would take appropriate action based on the inquiry's findings.

Yaseen emphasized Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz's commitment to supporting farmers and maximizing their benefits.

He explained the government's reluctance to procure wheat, citing concerns about benefiting middlemen and its focus on direct farmer support.

Regarding wheat procurement targets, Yaseen revealed that while Punjab had a 22 million metric ton wheat crop, the government aimed to purchase only 2 million metric tons due to logistical constraints.

The food minister highlighted Prime Minister Mian Shehbaz Sharif's disciplinary actions against negligent officers and noted that 90% of the wheat had already been sold, reducing the likelihood of middlemen profiting.

Opposition leader Ahmad Khan Bhachar criticised the government's priorities, accusing it of prioritising political vendettas over farmers' welfare. He derided what he termed a "TikTok government," emphasising the need for concrete measures to alleviate the plight of the masses.

Expressing frustration with the lack of accountability, Bhachar lamented the government's failure to address farmers' issues despite extensive discussions and proposed solutions in the House.

Another opposition member, Sheikh Imtiaz, called for decisive action, advocating for the arrest of those responsible for the crisis. However, he expressed scepticism about the government's willingness to act.

Following the completion of agenda items, Speaker Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan adjourned the House until Wednesday at 2 pm.

The debate reflected growing tensions in the Punjab Assembly over the wheat crisis, with opposition voices demanding accountability and immediate action to support farmers.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2024.



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