LAHORE: Two main opposition parties – the PML-N and the PPP – have demanded immediate action against the influential people nominated in a report about sugar and wheat flour crises submitted to the prime minister by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Saturday.
Commenting on it on Sunday, PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif said the FIA report contained “serious disclosures” warranting government action against those mentioned in it as beneficiaries of the crises.
He says the report is in fact a charge-sheet against Prime Minister Imran Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar.
“Let’s see what penalty the prime minister, who is also chairman of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC), takes against himself and his Chief Minister Mr Buzdar over this large-scale corruption and nepotism?” says Mr Sharif, who is also the opposition leader in the National Assembly.
Referring to his homecoming after four-month stay in London, he says that he has returned only to join the masses for waging a war on coronavirus. He says he had intended, while coming to Pakistan, to serve the people rising above politics and personal liking and disliking, but has to speak on the FIA reports because “these are serious disclosures warranting immediate action by the government.”
Punjab PPP president Qamar Zaman Kaira says the FIA report has shaken the foundations of the government as Jahangir Tareen, Khusro Bakhtiyar and Q-League leadership, all of them nominated in the report as beneficiaries of the financial scandal, had major role in the making of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led government in the country.
He argues that there is no need for forensic audit of the report when Mr Tareen has confirmed that he has received the subsidy.
Mr Kaira says the decision to offer subsidy on sugar export was taken by the cabinet and thus the whole government was involved in this ‘fraud’ and the prime minister should admit failure of his administration in checking the ‘corruption’ and send behind the bars those held responsible for the wrongdoing.
PPP secretary general Chaudhry Manzoor says as the report has exposed the economic crime of the ‘bogus’ government, those found involved in the scam must immediately resign.
PPP Parliamentary Leader in Punjab Assembly Syed Hassan Murtaza has chided the prime minister for delaying action on the FIA reports until their forensic audit.
Asking in which case involving the opposition leaders, the government agencies had waited for results of forensic audit, he says the PM’s statement is tantamount to “backing the criminals”.
“We have been stating that the clues to flour and sugar thieves lead to Banigala. Now [PM Imran Khan] Niazi is attempting to protect his financial facilitators under the garb of forensic audit.”
Referring to Asif Ali Zardari’s arrest by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for investigations into alleged money laundering charges against him, Murtaza says if a former head of state can be taken into custody even before a formal charge-sheet filed by any investigation agency, then why can’t Jehangir Tareen, who has been nominated in the FIA report as a major beneficiary of the sugar export scam, be arrested.
He lamented that former opposition leader Syed Khursheed Shah was detained without a formal probe into his alleged corruption, whereas Federal National Food Security and Research Minister Khusro Bakhtiyar was roaming freely despite his industrial group was also found involved in the subsidy scam.
Mr Murtaza also criticised the NAB for adopting a “dual policy” vis-à-vis government and opposition. He demanded NAB to being its investigations from the prime minister who, he said, had been inviting Mr Tareen to official meetings and was thus the main accused in the financial scandal.
Meanwhile, Punjab PML-N information secretary Ms Azma Bukhari criticised the prime minister for lauding Buzdar government during his visit to Lahore this weekend.
She sarcastically asked if this appreciation was for the government’s failure to provide personal protection equipment (PPE) to the medical staff taking care of coronavirus patients and shortage of ventilators.
She said the prime minister had better announced supply at least 1,000 ventilators and 100,000 PPEs to the hospitals during his visit.
Asserting that Imran Khan has lost the moral ground to rule the country after the FIA report, she demanded the prime minister quit his office to ensure a fair and impartial probe into his involvement in the sugar scam.Welcoming the FIA report, Jamaat-I-Islami emir Sirajul Haq has demanded indiscriminate and stern action against all those who had minted money in the scam.
In a statement, he said the loot and plunder in the country could not be controlled without true and across-the-board accountability.
He said he had been saying repeatedly that some people close to the government were behind the serious shortage and high prices of sugar and wheat in the country.
Sirajul Haq said the capitalists and feudal lords who had unlawfully benefitted due to the crisis in the name of subsidy should be brought to book, the huge amounts earned by them be recovered from them and distributed among the deserving people.
Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2020