NAB to probe ‘billions of rupees looted’ in sugar, wheat scandals

Published April 21, 2020
Detailed FIA report on the matter to come out on April 25. — AFP/File
Detailed FIA report on the matter to come out on April 25. — AFP/File

The National Accountability Bureau on Tuesday said it will begin a “comprehensive” investigation on all aspects of the wheat and sugar scandals in the country.

In a statement released to the media, the anti-graft watchdog said a decision to probe reports of “plunder worth billions of rupees” through smuggling, price gouging, alleged subsidies and other aspects of these crises was taken during a meeting of the bureau's executive committee, presided by by NAB Chairman Justice (r) Javed Iqbal.

Earlier this year, the country was battling shortages in the supply of both commodities, which had led to a surge in prices, leading to fierce criticism of the government's policies as an inflation-battered public was left even more burdened.

Under pressure, Prime Minister Imran Khan, amidst allegations his own allies were behind the crises, had announced an inquiry promising strict punishment for anyone found guilty of profiting from these scandals.

On April 4, two reports by the Federal Investigation Agency on the said crises were made public, exposing ruling PTI’s bigwig Jahangir Tareen, Khusro Bakhtiar, PML-Q's Monis Elahi and their relatives as being involved in the scam and benefiting from export subsidies at a time when the commodity was short in the country.

Read more: Not as close to Imran as I was but still his friend, says Jahangir Tareen

On April 6, while terming the inquiry reports on sugar and wheat crises in the country “unprecedented”, Prime Minister Imran said he would wait for a detailed forensic report — expected to be released on April 25 — on the matter before taking action against anyone.

He vowed that no powerful lobby would be able to gain undue profit and create an artificial shortage of essential items in the future.

The same day, in a surprise move, the prime minister reshuffled his cabinet for a third time since forming his government in August 2018. Among others, the minister for national food security, Bakhtiar — who was also named as a beneficiary in the FIA reports — was reassigned to t portfolio of economic affairs.

Reports from the same day also suggested Tareen was removed from his position as the chairman of the country's Agriculture Task Force, but he denied this, saying he was never appointed to any position in the first place.

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