PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Tuesday directed the deputy commissioners of the merged tribal districts to stop the transportation of poultry products to Afghanistan in their respective districts and submit their reports to the court.
A bench consisting of Chief Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan and Justice Syed Arshad Ali declared that the provincial food secretary should the focal person for the exercise to be supervised by the chief secretary.
It ordered the deputy commissioners to continue “stopping the transportation of poultry products to Afghanistan until such time that prices are normalised here”, and adjourned the hearing into a case on the matter until June 10.
The bench took exception to the increasing chicken prices and wondered how a product could be exported when the locals were unable to afford it due to shortages.
Wonders how a product can be exported if shortage makes it unaffordable for locals
It observed that ‘mafias’ had been operating in the country as first, the sugar and flour scandals surfaced and later, the poultry one rocked the province.
The bench wondered whether the federal and provincial governments were helpless in front of those ‘mafias’.
It issued orders and observations during the hearing into a petition filed by resident Malik Sheharyar last year regarding dairy products, including milk adulteration.
From time to time, the court took notice of hike in the prices and hoarding of essential commodities, including sugar, wheat flour and others.
Provincial advocate general Shumail Ahmad Butt, additional advocate general Syed Sikandar Hayat Shah, food secretary Khushhal Khan, Peshawar deputy commissioner retried Captain Khalid Mehmood, special secretary of the livestock department, commissioner (food security) of the federal government, and other relevant officials showed up in the hearing.
The bench observed that the government should improve ties with neighbouring countries and export different items there but at the same time, it should not increase problems of its citizens.
The food secretary informed the bench that they had been holding meetings with the federal government over the issue.
He said 31 per cent of the poultry products in this province came from Punjab, which was its major producer.
Advocate general Shumail Butt told the bench that according to a report of the Competition Commission of Pakistan, around 3,500 poultry sheds had closed down in Punjab due to the situation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and thus, badly affecting the poultry industry.
He said a substantial increase in prices of poultry feed had also surged the rates of poultry products so much that a chicken, which was sold for Rs400 per kg, cost Rs700 per kg.
The chief justice observed that whether people were going to die of starvation if the Covid-19 pandemic continued for two more years. He asked the government about steps to control prices.
The AG said the provincial government would comply with any order issued by the court on the matter and was already in contact with the federal government.
The commissioner (food security) told the bench that recently, meat dealers met President Dr Arif Alvi over the issue and highlighted their problems.
He said in that meeting, he informed the president about the high court’s concern regarding the growing prices of essential commodities, especially of meat and poultry products.
The commissioner said the president had said to convey to the high court that the situation had deteriorated due to Covid-19 and the government was fully aware of the problems faced by citizens.
He claimed that the president had declared that poultry was in surplus in Punjab and the moment government realised that there was scarcity of the product on the market due to its export, they would stop it.
The bench wondered that it was a strange logic that product had surplus supply but still, its prices were skyrocketing.
It observed that even the middle class was unable to consume poultry what to talk about poor people.
Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2021