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Monday, April 15, 2024

Is government planning to launch a crackdown on wheat mafia?

Prime Minister Imran Khan, while presiding over a high-level meeting, has to launch a crackdown on elements involved in wheat hoarding across the country. The meeting reviewed the adequate supply of wheat and flour to the people across the country and prices. Will wheat mafia blackmail the government?

The government has decided to launch a crackdown on elements involved in wheat hoarding across the country. This was decided at a high-level meeting presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday. The meeting reviewed the adequate supply of wheat and flour to the people across the country and prices. Will a crackdown on wheat mafia be of any use?

The prime minister directed the provincial chief secretaries to continue the policy of zero tolerance against adulteration and to not make any concessions in this regard. He directed the chief secretaries of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan to ensure complete prevention of wheat smuggling.

PM Kha directed that comprehensive administrative measures should be taken to further improve inter-provincial coordination and ensure equitable prices of wheat and flour across the country.

The premier directed the chief secretary of Sindh to finalise the wheat release policy in the province as soon as possible keeping in view last year’s experience. The plan for implementation of the decision to import wheat to meet the future needs of wheat and flour be finalised as soon as possible, the premier said.

Read More: Countrywide wheat crisis to be investigated by FIA

The chief secretary of Punjab apprised the meeting that a 20-kg bag of flour is being provided at Rs860 across the province. He said that the Punjab government is releasing 18,000 tons of wheat on daily basis to ensure ample availability of wheat.

The chief secretary of KP briefed the meeting on steps taken to prevent wheat smuggling.

Crackdown on wheat mafia: SC allows the federal government to go after Sugar mafia

Notably, a day after the federal government approached the Supreme Court against the Sindh High Court (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 on Tuesday allowed the government to proceed further against the sugar barons accused of hoarding and profiteering by the sugar inquiry commission. As the SC allows the government to go after Sugar mafia, it is to be seen what does the government do now?

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.

Sugar Inquiry Report

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.

Before, launching a crackdown on wheat mafia, 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.

Read More: NLC sends 200 vehicles daily to curb wheat crisis

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 allows the government to carry out the inquiries as per law, it is to be seen whether a crackdown on wheat mafia reach to its logical conclusion.