The Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Zaka Ashraf, who also owns Ashraf Sugar Mills, has been served a notice by Cane Commissioner of Punjab over non-payment of dues to farmers, which could potentially land him in jail.
According to the notice issued by Cane Commissioner of Punjab, Captain (retd) Usman Younus, Ashraf Sugar Mills was required to pay the outstanding Rs220 million by May 12. In case of non-payment, the chairman could face imprisonment for one year along with a fine of Rs50,000. The cane commissioner will finalise whether he will face one or both penalties.
The decision was taken under section 21 of the Punjab Sugar Factories Control Act 1950. According to a show cause notice issued earlier, payments had to be cleared by April 24, but the representative of Ashraf Sugar Mills asked for an extension until April 30.
Muhammad Rizwan, spokesperson for chairman Ashraf Sugar Mills said that payments of the sugar mill were stuck in the market, causing delays. Now, payment has been arranged and in a few days all dues will be cleared, he added. After that, our management will appear before the cane commissioner with receipts to finish the matter.
Earlier, the government of Punjab served several notices on Ashraf regarding non-payment of approximately Rs250 million to farmers. According to the notification, secretary food, on behalf of the Punjab government, summoned the chairman of Ashraf Sugar Mills on April 24, 2012.
Farmers from Bahawalpur and Bahawalnagar district had complained that despite end of financial session for the farmers, Rs220 million remained unpaid.
According to the rules and regulations, farmers supply raw sugar cane to sugar mills, payment for which is to be settled within 15 days. Farmers claim that Ashraf Sugar Mills, the only sugar mill for farmers of Bahwalpur and Bahawalpur, has failed to do that.
Farmers, on condition of anonymity, revealed that they were afraid the outstanding sum would not be paid because the federal government is backing the mill owner. They also said that they had complained to the chief minister complaint cell, based on which, the chief minister directed the Ministry of Food to resolve the matter.
According to orders from secretary food Punjab, Ashraf had to appear bearing all records. Earlier, Rizwan Ahmed, Public Relations Officer of Ashraf Sugar Mills told The Express Tribune that they had not received any official notice from the government of Punjab or the food ministry.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2012.
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