LAHORE: Prime Minister Imran Khan has laid his hands on the country’s elite involved in the alleged cartelisation of sugar business and vowed that it will not be able to blackmail the government or exploit the farmers anymore, said Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Political Communication Dr Shahbaz Gill.
Urging the nation to stand by PM Khan, Dr Gill said the government would recover farmers’ money looted by the mill owners. He said the mill owners would no more be able to shut down their businesses even for a day to exploit the farmers.
“Neither the media nor politicians will support Mr Khan in bringing these mafias to book,” said Dr Gill and urged people not to get misled by “thieves” in the next elections. “If you elect these thieves in the next elections, you will shoot yourself in the foot,” he warned.
Dr Gill was speaking at a news conference at the Press Information Department office to explain the Competition Commission of Pakistan’s (CCP) decision to impose Rs44 billion fine on 81 sugar mills and the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) on charges of manipulation of market and looting consumers in 2019.
The PSMA alone has been fined Rs300m, Dr Gill said, adding that the association had constituted zonal committees to manoeuvre decisions regarding the supply of sugar to the market and stocks in the sugar mills. Investigations revealed that the cartel of sugar mill owners had illegally shut down mills from Dec 30, 2019 to Jan 11, 2020 and stopped cane crushing to exploit the farmers. “The sugar mill owners exploit farmers by compelling them to wait for days leading to their crop losing weight and price,” he explained.
No such exploitation will be tolerated from now on and those found involved in the practice would face justice, said Dr Gill, and acknowledged that the country’s elite had connections in politics, media, bureaucracy and everywhere else.
Answering a question, he said PM Khan had taken the tough decision to bring the corrupt to book and faced threats, including toppling of the government, from all around, but he stood firm for the benefit of the people. “The mafia involved in making money by exploiting the hapless population is being crushed with an iron hand without any discrimination,” he added.
He also took on the media for trying to twist facts that the CCP decision was not unanimous as its two members opposed immediate imposition of the fine and its amount. He said the CCP chairman legally used his casting vote, as the decision to slap the fine had become a tie.
He said the media should ask the commission members about their stance on imposing the fine or not. He also asked journalists to unearth political affiliations of the sugar mill owners, who had been fined by the CCP.
Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2021