Bakhtiar asks PM to transfer Sugar Advisory Board to another ministry over perceived 'conflict of interest'

Published April 21, 2021
Recently appointed Minister for Industries and Production Khusro Bakhtiar has written a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan, asking him to transfer the Sugar Advisory Board (SAB) to another ministry. — APP/File
Recently appointed Minister for Industries and Production Khusro Bakhtiar has written a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan, asking him to transfer the Sugar Advisory Board (SAB) to another ministry. — APP/File

Recently appointed Minister for Industries and Production Khusro Bakhtiar has written a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan, asking him to transfer the Sugar Advisory Board (SAB) to another ministry to avoid "any possible perceived conflict of interest that may arise" and to allow the body to function without "public objections", it emerged on Wednesday.

In a letter dated April 16, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, Bakhtiar started out by thanking the premier for making him the minister of industries and production, terming it a "great honour".

The minister added that he was conscious of the "serious responsibility" his position placed on him.

"Given the importance of sugar as a commodity in Pakistan and in light of the recent public concerns in respect of the same, it is imperative that the functions of SAB are not perceived as serving any interests besides those of the people of Pakistan," he wrote.

"Keeping in view any possible perceived conflict of interest that may arise and in order to ensure that SAB is allowed to operate without public objections, I hereby request that the SAB be transferred to another ministry of the federal government."

Bakhtiar said the matter of the SAB was "imperative to the integrity" of his portfolio and the independent functioning of the body.

A notification issued by the Prime Minister's Office dated April 19 stated that the premier had received Bakhtiar's letter.

"The prime minister has seen and while agreeing to the request of the minister for industries and production, in principle, has been pleased to desire that Industries and Production Division shall, in consultation with the stakeholders concerned, move a summary for transfer of the Sugar Advisory Board to the appropriate ministry/division, at the earliest," it read.

Criticism over appointment

The minister's appointment had been criticised by the opposition with PPP Senator Mian Raza Rabbani terming it a "direct conflict of interest" because of Bakhtiar and his family members' involvement in the sugar industry as mentioned in the report of the sugar commission.

Rabbani regretted that Bakhtiar had been given the important portfolio exactly one year after his removal as the minister for national food security in the aftermath of the report released by a team of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on the sugar and wheat crises and beneficiaries of subsidies obtained by the industry’s bigwigs.

"Bakhtiar was removed as the minister for national food security [for] having a conflict of interest in the light of the report of the sugar commission. How [does] the conflict disappear in the ministry of industries and production which, in fact, has a direct link with the sugar industry?" questioned Rabbani.

Last year, two reports on the sugar and wheat crises in the country were made public, exposing ruling PTI's bigwigs Jahangir Tareen and Bakhtiar, PML-Q's Monis Elahi and their relatives as being involved in the scam. The reports were made public on the directives of the prime minister, who had ordered stern action against those found involved in the crises "irrespective of their status and party affiliation".

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