RAHIM YAR KHAN: A joint team of the food department and Punjab police on Thursday foiled a bid to smuggle flour to Afghanistan via Balochistan and confiscated four trucks loaded with 3,302 bags at the Daowala check post on Punjab-Sindh border, some 67km from here.

According to the food department, transportation of flour to Sindh and Balochistan especially from flour mills of Rahim Yar Khan is at its peak to earn huge profits. From December till date, a total of 14 truckloads of wheat flour have been impounded by the food department and police, seizing 9,057 bags.

There are four exit points from where the transportation of wheat flour takes place, including Kot Sabzal on national highway, Daowala near Bhong and Zahirpir interchange on M-5.

According to the food department sources, Of 95 flour mills in the district, 76 are functional. Flour mills owners get wheat quota from the food department at subsidised rates and are bound to provide flour to the open market. But [at the same time] different mills enhance their production due to wheat stocks procured from the open market and transport the flour to Sindh and Balochistan and [later] to Afghanistan.

Sources say the price of wheat flour bag in Punjab is Rs805 while it is being sold in Sindh for Rs1,200 and in Balochistan for Rs1,500 to Rs1,800.

The FIRs numbers 696/9 by Kot Sabzal police station on Dec 5, 2019, FIR 12/20 by Abadpur police on Jan 12, 2020, FIR 13/20 by Kot Sabzal police on Jan 13, FIRs 24/20 and 25/20 by Kot Sabzal police on Jan 22 were registered against all these trucks under Punjab Foodstuff Control Act 1958-3 and 1958-6.

The sources say three vehicles from the mills of Rahim Yar Khan Chamber of Commerce and Industry president were also among the trucks impounded on Jan 13.

On the other hand, a flour mills owner, Haji Ibrahim, told Dawn that there was no ban on transportation of wheat flour to any province under the 18th amendment. He said six years ago the Supreme Court had ruled that wheat flour could be freely transported anywhere in the country. “Only four mills cater to the needs of the district while the remaining units transport flour to other provinces,” he said.

He questioned under which rule the food department was registering FIRs against the flour mills.

Another flour mills owner requesting anonymity said trucks carrying flour were going to Sindh and Balochistan on a daily basis with the ‘cooperation’ of the food department inspectors.

District Food Controller Asghar Sahoo told this correspondent that there were no written orders on ban of flour transportation but the food department issued permits to flour mills for the purpose. He said a few days back he along with the RYK assistant commissioner raided flour mills of vice president of Punjab Flour Mills Association on a complaint of misuse of quota but could not find any malpractice there.

Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2020