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ISLAMABAD: Five sugar mills operating in south Punjab assured the Supreme Court on Thursday that they would purchase the entire sugarcane crop at the price of Rs180 per maund fixed by the government.

A three-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, hearing a set of identical petitions moved by Haseeb Waqas Sugar Mills Ltd, Chaudhry Sugar Mills Ltd, Ittefaq Sugar Mills and Pakistan Kissan Ittehad, had sought on Wednesday a proposal outlining how to buy the entire sugarcane crop from the farmers.

The court had also asked the counsel for JDW Sugar Mills Ltd to come up with a proposal outlining how to purchase the entire crop from the farmers in the area or the court would consider allowing commencement of sugarcane crushing by the sugar mills the operation of which had been suspended under the Lahore High Court’s Sept 11, 2017 judgement with a direction to dismantle and relocate their mills from Bahawalpur within three months.

The Supreme Court had also asked the PTI leader and owner of JDW Sugar Mills, Jahangir Khan Tareen, to appear before the court on Thursday which Mr Tareen did.

‘Baba Rehmata’ knows who had incited the farmers to protest, where meetings were held and with whom, says CJ

During the hearing on Thursday, the Supreme Court was told by the representatives of five sugar mills — JDW Sugar Mills Ltd, Raheem Yar Khan Sugar Mills Ltd, Indus Sugar Mills Ltd, Ashraf Sugar Mills Ltd and Hamza Sugar Mills Ltd — that they would purchase the entire available crop in the area.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court suspended the LHC’s Sept 11, 2017 judgement in which the petitioner sugar mills had been ordered to dismantle and relocate their mills from Bahawalpur, and postponed proceedings till April when the crushing season would have ended.

During the proceedings, the chief justice, while referring to “Baba Rehmata” — a term he coined earlier — asked the counsel representing the farmers that he (Baba Rehmata) knew who had incited the farmers to protest and where meetings were held and with whom.

“That is why I always say always speak [the] truth before Baba Rehmata and nothing should be hidden from him,” the chief justice observed, adding that the court would continue to monitor the situation till the entire crop was purchased and consumed by the five sugar mills.

Referring to the counsel representing the farmers, the chief justice observed that the court had given whatever relief it could have given to them.

During the proceedings, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan representing JDW Sugar Mills told the court that the establishment had to pick the sugarcane from a radius of 150 miles, adding that appeals on behalf of farmers in different newspapers venting their frustration over the monopoly of a few sugar mills, were issued at the behest by someone else.

In their pleas, the petitioner units had argued that the crushing season had already started and it lasted three to four months a year and missing the season would mean irreparable loss to the petitioner companies and its employees in addition to adversely affecting the farmers who supplied the sugarcane to the mills.

Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2018