ISLAMABAD: The opposition has asked the National Accountability Bureau to act against those members of the ruling elite who created recent sugar and wheat shortage in the country by exporting these two commodities which led to massive increase in prices of these commodities. It has also criticised FIA reports which are silent on critical aspects of the entire racket.
Speaking at a press conference here on Monday, PML-N vice president Shahid Khaqan Abbasi questioned as to how and why the export of sugar was allowed when the production was just around the estimated domestic consumption. He said that the ministries of national food security and industries and production had opposed the idea of allowing exports of sugar in 2018, but the permission for export of one million tonne of sugar was given in October 2018.
He said this export permission formed 20 per cent of the domestic requirement of the commodity in the country. He said that export of another one million tonne of sugar was allowed in December 2019 at a time when the man-made shortage of the commodity had already started financially hitting the masses across the country because of the massive price increase.
He said the Punjab government also started giving subsidy of Rs5.5 per kilogramme and inland freight of Rs1 per kilogramme. He said the two sugar mills owned by those having the role in policy-making had been given Rs3 billion in the subsidy.
Abbasi asks why sugar export was allowed when output was just enough to meet domestic needs
“The report is silent on the reason for this,” the PML-N leader said and asked Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar what was he doing.
Mr Abbasi, however, said that the amount paid in the subsidy was only a small fraction of the fast buck made under the game plan, which came to around Rs100 billion. He said that exports of sugar and wheat had been allowed under a scheme meant to escalate prices of these commodities in the country so as to benefit mill owners and the middlemen of the two commodities.
He said the calculation based on a mere Rs15 per kilogramme increase meant that the two groups earned Rs20 and Rs15 billion in excess of the routine profit through the manipulative change in the government’s policy.
The PML-N leader said that the approval for permission of export of sugar had been given by the ECC and the federal cabinet, headed by the finance minister and the prime minister, respectively.
“The prime minister himself is the head of the mafia. He will have to accept the responsibility,” the PML-N leader said, adding that those responsible should be handed over to NAB for their trial in the court of law.
He said that reports on sugar and wheat crisis were meant to save actual thieves and the commission formed for a probe would also be headed by author of the reports.
Mr Abbasi said the report on sugar had tried to create an impression that Mr Nawaz Sharif and Mr Shahbaz Sharif were among beneficiaries of the subsidy which was not true.
He said that Sharif brothers owned three sugar mills, one of which, the Chaudhry Sugar Mill, had remained closed for the last three years while the other two mills, the Ramzan Sugar Mills and Al-Arabia Sugar Mill, had received no subsidy during the present government’s term.
He said the PML-N government had also allowed export of sugar and given subsidy during its tenure, but under entirely different circumstances. He said the production of the sugar during the PML-N tenure was 2.1 million tonnes and 1.6 million tonnes of sugar was in excess of the domestic requirement in 2016-17 and 2017-18, respectively.
Meanwhile, PPP leader Mian Raza Rabbani has said that the Sugar Inquiry Report has exposed vested interests of the country’s ruling elite.
“The report has exposed that for economic gains and to further their vested interests, the ruling elite of the country has the common agenda and the report has exposed the class-oriented politics in the country,” Mr Rabbani said in a statement.
He said that in the light of the report, the government must act against the cartel and the stranglehold of the vested interests and the ruling elite on the rights and economy of the country must be broken.
The government must ask its ministers concerned and the chief minister involved in the scam to resign and NAB should start investigations against those members of the ruling party that benefited from the racket.
Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2020