LAHORE: There would be no imports of vegetables, especially tomato, which has seen its price skyrocketing in the last few weeks, despite all manipulations by “an influential mafia”, Minister for Industries, Commerce and Investment Shiekh Allauddin assured the Punjab Assembly here on Monday.

The brief session, that lasted around 80 minutes before it succumbed to short quorum, was supposed to conclude debate on price hike. But, since it was not included in the agenda, the Sheikh stood on a note of personal explanation saying he was misreported by a section of press.

He said that now tomatoes from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were being sold at Rs70 per kilo in the city and would continue to be sold till prices get further stabilised with supplies from Sindh arriving in the local market.

“Why pass the advantage on to foreign farmers instead of our own?”

An influential mafia was trying hard for resumption of import from India, but won’t happen, he said, claiming the tomato price had come down to half and would slide further in days to come.

An interesting situation developed after the Question Hour when Murad Ras of the PTI stood on a point of order and complained: “In my constituency, we have contributed (money) for installation of a filtration plant for the people (on self-help basis) because the provincial government was not providing funds for the same. Today, when we tried to install the plant, the local TMO (tehsil municipal officer), along with his staff, came to the venue to inquire with whose permission the plant was being installed. I am putting it on record if there is any violence tomorrow on the issue, the entire responsibility would lie with the provincial government. The plant is not purchased with official money and now its installation is being hampered by the municipal officials.”

Earlier, the session started with a delay of 90 minutes; at around 3.30pm, instead of 2pm. And it lasted only 80 minutes when after a brief discussion on price hike, the opposition pointed out quorum.

By that time, the Treasury benches had only 45 members, which showed some improvement in their number as compared to their strength at the start of the session.

Though the Chair ordered ringing of customary bells for five minutes, the attendance did not go beyond 50 and the Speaker had no choice but to adjourn the session till Tuesday morning, which he ultimately did.

Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2017