Opposition terms sugar commission report ‘misleading’

Updated May 22, 2020

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Jahangir Tareen, Moonis Elahi reject report’s contents. — AFP/File
Jahangir Tareen, Moonis Elahi reject report’s contents. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The country’s two major opposition parties — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — have expressed serious reservations over the Sugar Forensic Commission (SFC) report and termed it “misleading” and an attempt to save the “real culprits”.

In separate statements in response to the SFC report, which was made public by the government after a special meeting of the federal cabinet here on Thursday, the leaders of both the PPP and PML-N expressed their surprise over the exclusion of the names of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Abdul Hafeez Shaikh from the report, saying these were the people who had allowed sugar export when there was a shortage in the country.

The report of the SFC, which had been constituted to investigate and assign responsibility for the sugar shortage and price hike of the commodity in the country in recent times, has revealed the names of a number of sugar mills owned by politicians and their relatives, including those belonging to the ruling PTI and its allies, which were responsible for sugar crisis.

Jahangir Tareen, Moonis Elahi reject report’s contents

The report has also mentioned the names of the sugar mill, partially owned by PML-Q leader Moonis Elahi, and another mill owned by former secretary general of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Jahangir Tareen.

Mr Tareen took to Twitter to respond to the report, saying he was “shocked at the false allegations” levelled against him.

“I do not maintain two sets of books. I pay all my taxes diligently,” he said, adding that he would “answer every allegation and be vindicated”.

Similarly, PML-Q MNA from Gujrat Moonis Elahi, whose party is a part of the ruling coalition headed by the PTI at the Centre and in Punjab, denied that he had any role in the affairs and management of the sugar mill.

Meanwhile, PML-N president and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif said the entire report was an “eyewash and a cover-up job to save the skin of the real culprits of this scandal Prime Minister Imran Khan, his cabinet and Punjab CM Usman Buzdar and his cabinet”.

Talking to a private news channel, Mr Sharif said this scandal was not about who got the subsidy, but the real crime in all this was the “criminal decision” to allow sugar export against the written recommendation of the sugar advisory boards amid shortage of sugar in the country.

The PML-N president said this decision was sole responsibility and prerogative of the prime minister who was the head of the Economic Coordination Committee, even if he asked his finance adviser to chair it on his behalf.

The PML-N president said the prime minister should have appeared before the commission as he was the “prime suspect” in this case.

He claimed that this commission of inquiry and the media fiasco created over its report were a diversion from the real crime and the real criminal.

Another PML-N leader and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in a statement demanded that PM Khan, CM Usman Buzdar and finance adviser Hafeez Shaikh “must be arrested immediately” because they had allegedly made all the decisions to enable the sugar theft.

The Sindh government, headed by the PPP, in its reaction has termed the SFC report “misleading”.

Official spokesman for the Sindh government Murtaza Wahab said the PTI government was setting a new trend in the country “to justify of lies and incompetence through inquiry commissions and investigative boards”.

“The terms of reference of the inquiry commission mandated it to probe affairs of two years 2019-20,” Mr Wahab said while talking to a private news channel.

“The commission was never mandated to probe sugar affairs of 2017-18. The Sindh government last offered subsidies to sugar mills in 2017. Since we were not in the picture of 2019-20, the government moved beyond its mandate and falsely implicated its political opponents,” he said, adding that “it’s called messing up the real issue”.

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2020