LAHORE: As the Punjab government refuses to take responsibility for the ongoing wheat crisis, ruling PML-N founder Nawaz Sharif has summoned Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif at Jati Umra residence to discuss the issue.

Meanwhile, the provincial government is exploring more ways and means to compensate the wheat growers, instead of revising upward its grain procurement target and announcing a date for entry into the market for purchase.

“The present government has nothing to do with the wheat crisis as it has been created by the caretaker setup [by importing wheat from abroad when the local crop was about to mature],” Punjab information minister Azma Bokhari told newsmen here on Friday, while dispatching relief goods for the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa affected by recent rains.

“Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has ordered an inquiry into the irregularity in wheat import and its findings will be made public soon,” she said.

PML-N supremo for early issuance of Kissan Card

Criticising the PTI-backed opposition, for what she said exploiting the wheat situation, Azma said that no one would be allowed to use the farming community for their “vested interest”.

Answering a question about a meeting of the ruling PML-N held under the chair of party’s supremo Nawaz Sharif to take stock of the wheat crisis, she said Mr Sharif had been elected thrice as the prime minister and all governments should benefit from his experience in managing national affairs.

Sources say that Nawaz Sharif was briefed in a meeting on Friday on the negotiations held with the farmers protesting the delay in wheat purchase and reducing by half the procurement target this season.

He was told that 0.7 million tonnes of grain were imported in the first month of the incumbent government’s rule and that approval for the wheat purchase had been sought days after the shipment had set sail for Pakistan.

Nawaz was informed that a cargo ship usually takes 25 days to reach Pakistan from the country selling the wheat, but in this case the shipment arrived here in seven days after the approval was given by the (caretaker) government, while a huge carryover stock was already available.

In this backdrop, the PML-N patron summoned Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to his Jati Umra residence on Monday to discuss the situation.

Earlier in the day, Shehbaz formed a fact-finding committee to ascertain the irregularities in the wheat import within four days. Punjab is likely to take a decision regarding the wheat procurement drive after the committee submits its report.

A PML-N leader says that Nawaz Sharif has directed the Punjab government to speed up the issuance of Kisan Card to the farming community in the meantime to grant interest-free loans to the affected wheat growers owning up to 12 acres of land, to enable them to sow the next crops.

Under the Kissan Card scheme, these farmers will be issued Rs75 billion loans at the rate of Rs30,000 per acre.

It is estimated that 0.5 million wheat growers have been affected by the delay in wheat purchase by the government and cut in the procurement target.

Nawaz for taking ‘culprits’ to task

Presiding over yet another meeting of Punjab officials in the capacity of an MNA here in Model Town, Nawaz Sharif, who recently returned from China, said that the wheat crisis should be resolved on urgent basis and all those involved in the wheat import scam should be taken to task. The elder Sharif reportedly also issued certain directions to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in this regard.

Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz, Punjab chief secretary and other provincial secretaries of related departments, who were also present in the meeting, briefed Mr Sharif on the current situation with regard to wheat and farmers’ problems.

This time, neither the Punjab government of Maryam Nawaz, nor the PMLN released any details about the meeting.

Earlier, CM Maryam had faced severe criticism after his father presided over some administrative meetings.

The PMLN leaders also held a separate meeting in which it was the re-election of Nawaz Sharif as the party president on May 11 was discussed.

Published in Dawn, May 4th, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

Olympics contingent
21 Jul, 2024

Olympics contingent

FROM 10 in Tokyo the last time, it is now down to seven in Paris, and split across just three disciplines. When...
Grave concerns
21 Jul, 2024

Grave concerns

PUNJAB Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz’s open assault on the Supreme Court for ruling in favour of the PTI in the...
Civil unrest
Updated 21 Jul, 2024

Civil unrest

The government must start putting out fires instead of fanning more flames.
Royal tantrum
Updated 20 Jul, 2024

Royal tantrum

The PML-N's confrontational stance and overt refusal to respect courts orders on arguably flimsy pretexts is a dangerous sign.
Bangladesh chaos
Updated 20 Jul, 2024

Bangladesh chaos

The unfortunate events playing out in Bangladesh should serve as a warning sign for other South Asian states.
Fitch’s estimate
20 Jul, 2024

Fitch’s estimate

FITCH seems to be more optimistic about Pakistan accelerating its economic growth rate to 3.2pc during this fiscal...