Country facing no shortage of wheat, says minister

Updated January 22, 2020


Federal Minister for National Food Security Khusro Bakhtiar says “artificial crisis” had emerged due to disturbance of supply chain in the country. — DawnNewsTv/File
Federal Minister for National Food Security Khusro Bakhtiar says “artificial crisis” had emerged due to disturbance of supply chain in the country. — DawnNewsTv/File

ISLAMABAD: Senators from less populous provinces on Tuesday portrayed a very dismal picture of the country’s undeveloped areas, claiming that people living in nearly 70pc of the total land in Pakistan did not even have basic facilities like education, health and drinking water.

Taking part in the debate on a report presented by the chairman of the Senate Functional Committee on Less-Developed Areas, Usman Kakar, the senators from Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) complained that despite having large energy and other natural resources and making a huge contribution to the national revenue, the people of the smaller provinces were not getting their due share and rights as enshrined in the Constitution.

Senators complain less populous provinces not being given due share in resources

When the opposition senators from Sindh and Balochistan lamented that they were not getting the due constitutional share despite producing oil, gas and other mineral resources in “sheer violation” of the Constitution, ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Senator Nauman Wazir from KP alleged that the people of his province were getting electricity on higher rates and facing loadshedding despite producing the cheapest electricity and more than the requirement of the province. He claimed that the people of Karachi were getting the cheapest electricity in the whole country.

Amidst desk-thumping by the opposition members, the PTI senator criticised his own government’s initiatives regarding ease of doing business, stating that the country’s own industries were lying shut then why anyone from outside would make investment in the country. He said a factory in Jahangira, Nowshera, which used to pay Rs700 million tax, had been closed due to non-availability of gas.

The PTI senator said despite producing 340mmcfd (cubic millimeter per day) gas which was more than its requirement of 200mmcfd, the KP was facing gas shortage.

Responding to the opposition’s applause over his remarks, Mr Wazir commented that he was first a Pakistani and then a PTI senator.

Earlier, while presenting the report, Senator Usman Kakar of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) said that the less developed areas formed 71pc of the total land of the country and produced 95pc of the country’s resources.

Mr Kakar said Sindh produced 63pc of the total gas and generated 60pc of the national revenue, but the people of the province did not have basic facilities. He described Dadu, Jacobabad, Kambar, Kashmore, Sanghar, Tharparkar, Umerkot and Badin as the most backward districts of the province.

The PkMAP senator alleged that five oil and gas companies were operating in Badin district, but these companies had not hired even 20pc employees from the local population. Similarly, he said, not more than 10pc people of Tharparkar had been recruited by the energy companies functioning in the area to extract coal from an area of 9,000 square kilometres. Moreover, he said, nearly 276,000 families had been affected by constant drought-like conditions in Tharparkar, but the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) seemed to be nowhere.

Mr Kakar said there was no train system available in interior Sindh whereas people generally complained that they were not getting water as per the agreed formula and the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) was doing great injustice with them.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senator Kalsoom Parveen said women in some areas of Balochistan were still being carried to hospitals on donkey carts.

Dr Sikandar Mandhro of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) warned that there would be no life in the coastal areas of Sindh in the next 10 to 15 years, if the federal government did not take steps to check sea intrusion that had already affected 2.2 million acres fertile land. He criticised the federal government for saying that it was a provincial matter.

Wheat flour crisis

Federal Minister for National Food Security Khusro Bakhtiar, who had been called by the Senate chairman to make a policy statement on the present flour crisis, informed the house that four million tonnes of wheat was available in the public sector and there was no shortage of the commodity in the country.

The minister said “artificial crisis” had emerged due to disturbance of supply chain in the country, but it had been overcome and the prices of flour would come down in the next few days.

He said wheat supply to Sindh had been increased to 10,000-12,000 tonnes a day from the stock of Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (Passco). Similarly, he said, 5,000 tonnes of wheat was being supplied to KP on a daily basis from the government and private godowns.

He alleged that the Sindh government’s failure to timely lift wheat from the Passco and recent goods transporters strike caused the artificial crisis in the province. He said the Sindh government had failed to procure even a single grain of wheat this year even though its target was set at 700,000 tonnes.

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2020