BAHAWALNAGAR: Officials of the Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) sold gunny bags to traders for Rs300 to Rs900 per bag instead of providing them to farmers in Bahawalnagar district, a report has revealed.

On the other hand, farmers are agitating against officials, accusing them of corruption by selling gunny bags to grain traders, politicians and middlemen on commission. They also charged the officials with getting higher labour rates and making illegal deductions of wheat per bag. Enraged farmers took over several Passco centres in the district and stopped the supply of bags. An Intelligence Bureau (IB) report says the farmers’ protests may cause a major law and order situation in coming days, Dawn has learnt.

The revenue, Passco and intelligence sources told Dawn 22 Passco centres have been set up in tehsils Minchinabad and Bahawalnagar for wheat procurement.

The report mentions traders’ names and number of bags sold to them against commission, claiming that 70pc gunny bags were sold to traders for commission at all 13 Pasco centres in tehsil Bahawalnagar. At nine Passco centres of tehsil Minchinabad, the situation is even worse as 70 to 80pc of bags are being sold to traders.

IB report alleges each bag was sold for Rs300 to Rs900 in Bahawalnagar; warns farmers’ protests may cause major law and order situation

About Bahawalnagar, the report says 44,500 gunny bags were sold by Passco centre Mari Mian in-charge Mehar Shahrukh to 10 traders. Similarly, Chishtian Road centre in-charge Muhammad Daniyal sold 27,500 gunny bags to eight traders, Siri Sukka in-charge Nawaz Bhatti sold 37,000 bags to seven traders, Jalwala Road in-charge Muhammad Waleed sold 25,000 bags to seven traders, Chak Kaliye Shah in-charge Muhammad Faisal sold 16,000 bags to nine traders, Qazi Sajjad Ali centre in-charge Ameen Kot sold 13,800 bags to 10 traders, Khatan centre in-charge Shujat Hussain sold 5,000 bags to three traders, Kheraj Pura centre in-charge Malik Bashir Ahmad sold 10,000 bags to five traders, Ayazuddin Sandho of Jandwala centre sold 8,200 bags to seven traders, Bakhran in-charge Muhammad Akif Qamar sold 2,000 bags to two traders and Rasoolpura in-charge Muhammad Shafiq sold 5,000 bags to three traders.

Farmers’ protest: In response to corruption and apathy of the government in the purchase of wheat, farmers started agitating and held protests at the Passco centres, taking the law into their hands. These protests have been going on for more than a month.

On April 6, former district president Kissan Etihad Chaudhry Anwar Group along with hundreds of farmers had held a protest at the Kaliye Shah wheat procurement centre and stopped the official work. They alleged that the centre in-charge Muhammad Faisal was selling bags to traders and politically affiliated people by getting Rs500 commission per bag.

On April 27, a dispute broke out between the farmers, led by TLP leader Muhammad Aslam Jamanika, and men of landlord Allah Dutta over the issue of bags at Passco centre, Arifwala Road. They farmers alleged that centre in-charge Shahrukh was selling bags to the middlemen.

Hundreds of farmers blocked the Karachi-Bahawalnagar road by erecting barriers last Sunday. The protesters raised slogans against the district administration and Passco officials.

The Passco DGM says due to the continuous protests of the farmers, he cannot sit in his office and has to keep his mobile phone off.

Evidence of corruption: On April 28, the Bahawalnagar assistant commissioner recovered 16,000 gunny bags from two commission agents, including Sukhira Commission Shop.

The shop owners alleged that they had obtained the bags from DGM Passco Malik Jibran Pervez and Passco Inspector Qazi Sajjad by paying them bribe. No action was taken over this incident.

While sharing documentary evidence with Dawn about tehsil Minchinabad, sources claimed that the centre in-charges had sold approximately 159,000 bags to 23 traders at the rate of Rs300 to Rs900 per bag.

Sources said that Dhakpatan in-charge Shahzad Ahmed sold thousands of bags to traders of districts of Okara and Pakpattan at the rate of Rs500 per bag and earned millions but no action was taken against the officials despite the complaints by farmers.

However, the administration was forced to take action on an intelligence report which stated that Ziaullah of Hafizabad had obtained thousands of official gunny bags from Dhakpattan Passco centre and was trying to shift them to Pakpattan. A man was arrested with 10,000 bags on a truck and a case was registered against him. Later, Minchinabad police discharged the case on the statement of centre in-charge Nafees Ahmad who said that gunny bags were being shifted to his Passco centre.

On April 29, the administration was again forced to register a case over the illegal issuance of gunny bags when nine trucks loaded with wheat from Pakpattan and Okara reached Dhakpattan centre for offloading, prompting a protest by local farmers on April 29. A case was registered against the truck drivers and the owner.

Khatan Passco centre in-charge Shujaat and Mari Mian centre in-charge Shahrukh were booked under criminal charges on complaints of revenue officials for selling bags to traders and factory owners. However, the said officials are still posted at the same centres.

Passco DGM Malik Jibran Pervez claimed the cases registered against both Pasco officials had been quashed.

What do officials say: Bahawalnagar DC Zulfiqar Ahmad says Passco is a federal corporation and the district administration cannot take any direct action against its officials.

He adds that the administration can report the matter to the department concerned; however, he admitted that till now he had not sent any report to any institution. He admits that he is not in a position to do anything about the corruption by Passco officials; however, he has lodged FIRs against the Passco officials due to public protests.

Dawn shared the names of the traders and the number of bags sold to them by the Passco center in-charges with DGM Passco and the DC. Both the officers did not deny the information but refused to comment on it.

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

Security concerns
23 Jul, 2024

Security concerns

All stakeholders want what is best for the country and its people; their differing approaches shouldn’t be viewed with such suspicion all the time.
Frankfurt vandalism
23 Jul, 2024

Frankfurt vandalism

THE state needs to seek serious answers from the German authorities regarding the July 20 mob attack targeting...
Stressed cotton economy
23 Jul, 2024

Stressed cotton economy

DECREASING cotton production should be a worry for the government because of its socioeconomic implications. Early...
Population calamity
Updated 22 Jul, 2024

Population calamity

Pakistan can also control its growth rate by following the examples of its peers and implementing functional family planning programmes and campaigns.
Blow to occupation
22 Jul, 2024

Blow to occupation

THE International Court of Justice has delivered a legal blow to the decades-old Israeli occupation of Palestinian...
Seeking Priya Kumari
22 Jul, 2024

Seeking Priya Kumari

PRIYA Kumari — the minor girl who vanished on Ashura in 2021 while serving water at a sabeel in Sukkur district ...