Shehbaz Sharif blasts PM Imran over delay in sugar commission's report, terms it 'proof of premier's guilt'

Updated April 26, 2020

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Leader of the Opposition and PML-N chief Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday blasted Imran Khan over a delay in the sugar commission's report. — AFP/File
Leader of the Opposition and PML-N chief Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday blasted Imran Khan over a delay in the sugar commission's report. — AFP/File

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and PML-N chief Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday blasted Prime Minister Imran Khan for the delay in the report to be submitted by the sugar inquiry commission and termed it "proof of the premier's guilt".

The remarks came a day after the Sugar Forensic Commission (SFC) asked for an extension of three weeks' time to submit the report. Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Shahzad Akbar in a Twitter post on Saturday said that the commission had asked for an extension and the federal cabinet would consider their request on Tuesday.

"The delay in the report is validation of the government's theft of Rs100 billion. It is an attempt to protect those responsible for the sugar crisis," Shehbaz said in a statement.

He added that "hiding the report would not hide Imran Khan's crimes. The nation is aware of who stole wheat and sugar. There is no further need for inquiry or forensic audit."

Shehbaz alleged that the federal cabinet, the Economic Coordination Committee and "those who had approved the subsidies" were responsible for the crisis. He also called for PML-N members — Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Khurram Dastagir to be included in the inquiry commission, adding that then "matters would be clear".

The SFC had been constituted by the government in the first week of April following the release of two separate inquiry reports of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on the issue of artificial shortage of sugar and wheat in the country and sudden increase in their prices last year.

The inquiry report on sugar had revealed names of many bigwigs, including Jahangir Tareen, the former secretary-general of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and a close confidant of the prime minister, who had allegedly benefitted from the crisis.

After the release of the report, the opposition had demanded that the premier take stern action against those who had been declared responsible for the crisis by the FIA committee.

Prime Minister Khan had vowed to take action, but said he would do so after receiving the forensic audit report from the commission that he had constituted on the recommendation of the ‘initial’ reports. The commission comprises officials from a number of agencies and departments including the Intelligence Bureau and the Federal Board of Revenue.

'Targeting the PM to save own political presence'

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan criticised Shehbaz for "doing politics in the time of coronavirus, even though the prime minister has urged to refrain from doing so".

Speaking at a press conference in Sialkot, Awan said that Shehbaz was trying to "save his political presence" by levelling allegations against Imran Khan. "Some people have too much free time, they are socially distanced in the political arena as well so they throw bombs at Imran Khan."

SAPM Awan addressing the media in Sialkot. — DawnNewsTV
SAPM Awan addressing the media in Sialkot. — DawnNewsTV

The SAPM further said that such a commission had been made in Pakistan for the "first time". She added that the commission had been given a mandate and it took time to conduct forensic audit and analysis which was why the commission had asked for more time.

She added that the PTI was taking the process of "across the board accountability" forward and questioned Shehbaz over whether he had done the same for his family. "Imran Khan does not have family [involved in the sugar crisis] that he needs to protect. It was during the PML-N's time that the uncle was granting favours to his nephew. Why don't you do accountability of your own family first?

"Imran Khan and his government will be acquitted in front of the nation [when the report comes]," she added.

She urged political leaders, especially the opposition members to join the government's efforts to provide relief to the people amid the coronavirus outbreak. "No government can defeat such a big challenge unless the government and opposition unite for the sake of the people".