LAHORE: Farmers have rejected the suspension of four officers in the wheat import scandal terming it an insufficient step taken to protect the real culprits.

On the recommendation of an inquiry committee tasked with investigating the import of wheat close to the local crop harvest time Prime Minister She­hbaz Sharif has orde­red suspension of four offi­cers — former National Food Se­­­­curity secretary Muh­ammad Asif, former DG of Food Protec­tion A.D. Abid, National Food Secu­rity Commis­sio­ner Dr Wase­­­­em and Director Suhail.

“The federal cabinet’s decision to suspend four Food Security officers involved in the wheat scandal is insufficient. We believe that these officers are being made scapegoats to protect the real culprits,” Pakistan Kisan Rabita Committee (PKRC) general secretary Farooq Tariq said.

“They are trying to cover up the scandal by punishing a few junior officers,” he added.

The investigative committee has already given a clean chit to the caretaker government by appointing Kamran Ali Afzal as the chairman of the panel while he himself was the secretary of caretaker prime minister Anwarul Haq’s cabinet, he pointed out.

“How can a federal secretary investigate his former boss?” he questioned.

“The wheat scandal has been covered up, and the real culprits who made this key economic decision are being protected. They are the caretaker government and its ministers who allowed grain import and gave a free hand to the capitalist companies to plunder the local economy.”

He said that 60 companies have made huge money through the wheat scandal, while most farmers are still unable to sell their wheat at government rates of Rs3,900 per 40 kg and are being forced to sell at lower prices.

Mr Tariq warned that if the government does not start wheat procurement and take action against the real culprits of the wheat scandal, the PKRC would invite farmers from across the country for protests in Lahore and Islamabad.

“We will not let the government protect the real culprits and punish the junior officers,” he said.

The PKRC has deman­ded the constitution of a commission comprising farmers’ leaders to investigate the wheat scandal and identify the real culprits, he added.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2024

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