Food supply: K-P govt moves top court against Punjab wheat ‘ban’

Punjab imposed restrictions on movement of wheat to K-P.

Hasnaat Malik May 20, 2014
Punjab imposed restrictions on movement of wheat to K-P. PHOTO: FILE


The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government has approached the Supreme Court against the Punjab government blocking the supply of wheat to the north-western province.

The K-P government requested the top court on Monday to issue an appropriate order to all provinces, especially Punjab, to allow and not create any hindrance in procuring and transporting wheat for its province.

“The Punjab government has imposed unannounced restrictions for the last 20 days on the movement of wheat and established check posts on routes and roads leading to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa where trucks loaded with wheat have been gridlocked,” stated the application, submitted by the K-P government through Advocate General Latif Yousufzai.

These restrictions are blocking the flow of K-P’s wheat, which is not only adversely affecting the procurement drive but also creating a wheat shortage in the market, it said. “This, in turn, has caused an increase in the rate of flour at a time when all experts claim to have a bumper wheat crop this year,” says the application made available to The Express Tribune.

The three-judge bench of the top court, headed by Justice Jawwad S Khawaja, will resume the hearing of a constitutional plea, filed by Jamaat-e-Islami’s (JI) Secretary General Liaquat Baloch, on the price escalation of flour today (Tuesday), where it will take up the application.

The PTI provincial government stated that Article 151 of the Constitution stipulates free flow of edible commodities throughout Pakistan.

For the year 2013-2014, the federal government has fixed the target of procurement of wheat to 0.45 million tons for K-P and the target is to be achieved during the current crop season ending by June 30 this year, submitted Yousafzai.

According to the application, millers in K-P are facing difficulties in transporting wheat, which they are purchasing in the markets of Punjab and then grinding it in their mills.

The K-P food minister and food secretary have written to the federal and Punjab governments to lift the ban, but to no avail.

The chief minister has approved the summary on April 18 and raised the support price from Rs1,200 per 40 kilogramme to Rs1,250. The Rs50 increase was made to encourage growers, farmers and parties to offer wheat for sale to the K-P Food Department and enable it to meet the target.

The application says, “The Food Department also made necessary arrangements including obtaining a Rs10-billion loan for a tenure of three months at the Karachi Interbank Offered Rate of 0.6% per annum from the Bank of Khyber. The harvesting of wheat started from March 15 in Sindh from April 15 in parts of Punjab. In K-P, estimates of local production are 1.1 million tons but harvesting has not yet gained momentum.”

The K-P Provincial Assembly, on a point of order, also discussed the ban imposed by Punjab on the movement to the province on May 13, states the application.

On the last hearing of the flour price case, held on May 13, the Supreme Court directed the Attorney General for Pakistan as well as all advocates general to assist it regarding the constitutional consequences of the failure of five executive governments in providing the supply of basic food necessities to citizens of the country.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 20th, 2014.


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