Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday rejected intra-court plea filed by an association of sugar millers against report and constitution of the inquiry commission. IHC, while announcing the verdict on the plea, upheld the earlier decision of Chief Justice Athar Minallah and allowed authorities to continue their action against people responsible for the sugar crisis. The court now allows the government to act against mafia.
A two-member bench comprising Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb and Justice Lubna Saleem Pervaiz announced the reserved verdict. The court stated that the constitution and report of the commission, formed to identify those responsible for the sugar crisis, cannot be declared null and void merely on suspicion of technical issues.
On the other hand, Sindh High Court on Monday declared a report of the Sugar Inquiry Commission null and void.
SHC, while accepting the plea of owners of sugar mills, ordered that the government can launch an inquiry against the mills but the report of commission should not influence the investigation.
It is pertinent to mention here that Sugar inquiry commission had claimed that sugar mills belonging to the families of the country’s top politicians including PML-N’s Shehbaz Sharif, PTI’s Jahangir Tareen, and Khusro Bakhtiar, PML-Q’s Moonis Elahi and PPP’s Asif Ali Zardari were among the beneficiaries of the crisis.
SC sets aside order of SHC
Notably, a few days ago, the federal government approached the Supreme Court against the SHC stay order which barred authorities from acting on the recommendations of the inquiry report on the recent sugar crisis which witnessed an artificial surge in the price of the commodity, the apex court allowed the government to proceed further against the sugar barons accused of hoarding and profiteering by the sugar inquiry commission.
In its order, the apex court directed federal authorities to “operate in accordance with the law”. The court also cautioned the government against taking “unnecessary steps” against sugar mill owners. The verdict annulled the SHC ruling of June 24 which had restrained the federal authorities from taking action against around 20 sugar mills of Sindh on the inquiry report.
The court also directed the high courts of Sindh and Islamabad, where cases pertaining to the matter were pending, to issue a decision within three weeks.
Government to act against mafia?
The government on Feb 20 constituted an inquiry committee to probe into a sudden hike in sugar price and shortage of the commodity across the country. It was asked to ascertain if the production this year was less than past years, if the low produce was the prime reason for price hike and whether the minimum support price was sufficient.
Subsequently, on May 21, the commission delivered its report identifying potential violations of laws by different manufactures of sugar and others acting in collusion or in concert with the manufacturers of sugar thereby being liable to possible legal action(s) or proceedings as warranted under different statutes.
SC allows the government to go after sugar mafias but it is important to remember that on the directions of Prime Minister Imran Khan, the reports of the inquiry committees tasked to probe sugar and wheat crises in the country were made public on the 4th of April. According to the inquiry committee. There are six groups which control about 51% of the production of sugar in Pakistan, JKT’s Group JDW, controls 19.97% production, RYK Group (Khusro Bakhtiar) group control 12.24%, Al-Moiz Group controls 6.8%, Tandlianwala Group 4.9%, Omni Group 1.7% and the Sharif family owns 4.5% of the production, revealed the report.
It is important to note that earlier this year, following the shortage of wheat flour in the country and the subsequent price hike, sugar had also gone missing from the market. Taking notice of the situation, the prime minister had formed a committee to find out those responsible for the crises.
PTI’s senior leader Jahangir Khan Tareen has already questioned the criteria behind the audit of his nine sugar mills and the selection process by the committee formed to probe the matter. He also rejected the sugar crisis report. The PTI leader said that he does not object to the audit of his sugar mills under the committee. “Will the commission discover the reality behind all the sugar mills in Pakistan after conducting an audit of the nine mills?” said the businessman.
Later in June, the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) moved petitions before the Islamabad High Court against the constitution of the inquiry commission and its report. Later on, they approached the SHC. However, the SC allowed the government to act against mafia.