Imran orders action against wheat hoarders

Updated 15 Jul 2020

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Prime Minister Imran Khan tells provinces to launch a massive crackdown against hoarding and adulteration of wheat. — PM's Instagram account/File
Prime Minister Imran Khan tells provinces to launch a massive crackdown against hoarding and adulteration of wheat. — PM's Instagram account/File

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday asked all the provinces to launch a massive crackdown against hoarding and adulteration of wheat and wheat flour to ensure availability in the market at an affordable price.

“Immediate crackdown should be conducted against wheat hoarders across the country,” the prime minister said while presiding over a high-level meeting held at PM Office to review availability and prices of wheat/flour.

He directed the relevant authorities that all shopkeepers must be bound to display price of 20kg bag of wheat flour (Atta) outside their shops. Besides, he highlighted the need for improving coordination among the provinces to bring uniformity in prices of wheat and wheat flour across the country.

His finance adviser Dr Hafeez Shaikh, commerce adviser Abdul Razak Dawood, special assistant on political communication Shahbaz Gill and federal ministers Syed Fakhr Imam and Hammad Azhar also attended the meeting.

Asad Umar to supervise matters related to provincial finance commission in three provinces

According to the PMO, the meeting also reviewed prices of sugar and its availability in the market.

At the meeting, the chief secretary of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa gave a briefing to the prime minister on wheat and measures to curb smuggling of wheat and flour to Afghanistan.

In his detailed briefing, the chief secretary of Punjab apprised the participants of the meeting that 20-kg bag of wheat flour was available in the province at the price of Rs860.

In order to ensure availability of wheat, the provincial government was releasing 18,000 tonnes of wheat every day, while 20 per cent wheat flour of Punjab was being sent to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to cater to the needs of the people there, he explained.

The official also apprised the meeting on sugar and its market prices.

Mr Khan issued special directives for the governments of KP and Balochistan to ensure measures to check smuggling of wheat and flour.

He then directed the chief secretary of Sindh to complete the process of release of wheat keeping in view last year’s situation.

He also directed the chief secretaries that no favour or leniency be shown to check adulteration.

Earlier in April, the government had promulgated an ordinance for taking stern action against hoarders and artificial price hike of 32 consumer items. Under the ordinance, hoarders will face a maximum imprisonment of three years and a fine equivalent to 50pc of the value of seized items.

Finance commissions

Meanwhile, the federal cabinet issued directives to the provincial governments for the constitution of provincial finance commissions to ensure equitable distribution of development funds among various areas of the provinces.

Addressing a presser after the cabinet meeting, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz said that the matters pertaining to the Provincial Finance Commission in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well as Balochistan would be supervised by Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar.

Mr Faraz said chief ministers and key provincial ministers usually spent development funds in their own constituencies, creating a sense of deprivation among the people of other areas. Under the Provincial Finance Commission, every district would get its share of development funds under a formula, he announced.

He said the cabinet meeting also directed the missions abroad to take steps for the release of some 11,376 Pakistanis languishing in jails of different countries. He said the prime minister directed the relevant authorities to provide legal assistance to the prisoners and the missions should strive for their early repatriation to Pakistan if any relief was possible for them in the wake of coronavirus pandemic.

Appointments

Regarding appointment of heads of various government institutions, Senator Faraz said it was a big challenge, as no proper system had been evolved in the past due to which irregularities were committed in nominations.

He also said that the prime minister expressed his determination to ensure transparency in the Senate elections as questions were raised on the transparency and fairness of Senate elections in the recent past especially in two specific provinces.

Mr Khan wanted that a system be in place to nominate suitable persons for the key posts, he said, adding that a committee led by PM’s adviser Dr Ishrat Husain was asked to plan and introduce a transparent system for such nominations on a fast-track basis.

On the issue of healthcare, the minister said the government had limited resources and for this reason joint ventures with the private sector were proposed to build hospitals.

Haj Fund

He said the cabinet also discussed a proposal to set up Hajj Fund for which the Malaysian model would be followed after removing legal hurdles in its establishment. Steps would also be taken prevent institutions from spending pension funds for any other purpose, he said.

The cabinet was also briefed on a proposal for provision of solar stoves to the people in northern Pakistan to prevent deforestation in the region.

About the gas tariff and K-Electric, the cabinet decided to discuss the issues in its next meeting, he said.

While giving details of cabinet meetings held so far since this government came into power in 2018, the minister said the cabinet had met 93 times and took 1,759 decisions. Of them, 1,579 decisions were implemented, 46 were in the process of implementation and 28 were facing delay.

Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2020