Roti, kapra, makaan: With price of wheat climbing, politicians play the blame game

Go back and forth over who is responsible for withdrawal of subsidy.

Our Correspondent February 13, 2014
Go back and forth over who is responsible for the withdrawal of subsidy. Photo: File

GILGIT: Withdrawal of the subsidy on wheat for Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) is now a hot topic for debate among politicians as the price of the essential commodity has witnessed a sharp increase. A 40 kilogramme bag of wheat, which was available for Rs530 last year, is now being sold at Rs840.

During his time, former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had introduced a 50% subsidy on wheat for G-B, keeping in mind rampant poverty in the region. The assistance was upheld by successive governments up until four years ago.

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Though the regional leadership of PPP is accusing the federal government for the spike in rates, PML-N leaders are busy returning the blame.

“Mehdi Shah’s government is behind this and is instead putting the blame on us in an attempt to malign the image of PML-N,” said PML-N’s regional chief Hafizur Rahman on Wednesday. He claimed PPP is trying to gain public sympathy for the upcoming election, “But we will not let that happen.”

The issue has also led to nationalist parties uniting in the region against the price hike. On Saturday last week, they formed a joint platform to protest inflation in commodities. “There is a consensus among the parties and we will resist the withdrawal [of subsidy],” said Baba Jan of Progressive Youth Front. He flayed the ruling and opposition parties for the increase in price and said they are trying to “fool the people”.

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G-B Information Minister Sadia Danish, however, snubbed the allegation. “As a matter of fact, it is the prerogative of the federal government to continue or terminate the facility,” she said, adding payments to Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation are made by the federal government, not the regional government.

She said the federal government reviews subsidies after every three months and withdraws a certain amount of aid. “So you cannot hold the regional government responsible for it,” she added.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 13th, 2014.


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