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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Is Jahangir Tareen responsible for the rising price of sugar?

Tareen said a fictional story has been fabricated against him. "My documentation is clear and transparent. I pay my income tax every year. Mine and my family's accounts are with the income tax people," he said. Is JKT innocent?

PTI leader Jahangir Tareen says he has nothing to do with the rising price of sugar or the sugar mafia. Talking to media outside a banking court in Lahore, where Tareen and his son Ali Tareen were granted an extension in interim bail till May 3, Tareen said there is constant talk of the sugar mafia and the price of sugar going up.

“I have nothing to do with the increase sugar price or the sugar mafia. No one said anything about a sugar case against Jahangir Tareen,” he said.

He called for people to read the three FIRs against him, saying there is no mention of sugar in any of them or any allegation. “All three FIRs did not mention the rise in the price of sugar, but the FIRs picked up things relating to my business from eight to 10 years ago,” Tareen said.

Tareen said a fictional story has been fabricated against him. “My documentation is clear and transparent. I pay my income tax every year. Mine and my family’s accounts are with the income tax people,” he said.

“Ask any businessman,” the PTI leader said confidently, explaining that they [businessmen] would say that if Jahangir Tareen is not the most transparent, then who is? Tareen repeated that an attempt is being made to tarnish his reputation.

“I have not even been accused in any sugar-related case in a year-and-a-half,” he said, adding that he is present in court to fight the cases against him. He said he did not know who is “doing this” to him, but “someone is”.

The PTI leader further said that he has not been to the Prime Minister House for more than a year-and-a-half.

FIA goes after JKT

The FIA has also charged Tareen and others for illegal hoarding of sugar, misappropriation and cheating in the FIR. CEO of JWD Sugar Mills in an act of forgery transferred 3.14 billion rupees to a closed company, the FIR read.

“In year 2011-12 over three billion rupees were transferred to Farooqi Pulp Milk Ltd,” according to the case. In year 2011-12 Tareen and family members also purchased dollars from the open market. His nominees transferred over seven million dollars to overseas for purchase of properties,” according to the FIR.

The FIA in another FIR charged that Amir Waris, a confidante of Tareen, made illegal transactions from the company accounts and drawn over two billion rupees. Waris illegally deposited the amount in personal accounts of Jahangir Tareen and his family members.

Read More: Power corridors’ prolonged association with sugar mills

“During the inquiry a fake account was also found, which was used for around six billion rupees illegal transactions,” FIR read. “The fake account was used for transactions in accounts of various companies of Jahangir Tareen.”

Inquiry Commission report: PM Khan’s boldest decision so far?

It is important to note that in 2020, 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.

The prime minister had constituted two high-powered committees headed by the Director-General (DG) of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) along with a senior officer of the Intelligence Bureau and the DG of the Anti-Corruption Establishment of Punjab to investigate the causes behind the crises and price hike of those commodities. The prime minister had further directed the committee on sugar to conduct forensic analysis of sugar mills to further expand the findings.

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, 2020. 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.

There were some speculations suggesting that the report might never be made public. Interestingly, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, then Federal Minister for Railways, had claimed in a private talk show that the report was unlikely to be published. “There shall be no report, I think,” he said. “Any report can disrupt the political process in the country, therefore, I believe that there may be some tactics to delay the report,” he added.

JKT was a big challenge?

Tareen, a senior leader of PTI, 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. There are also some speculations that the premier might have an idea that Pakistan’s flawed justice system cannot punish the mafia but he still ordered to make the report public.

Can Pakistan’s flawed justice system punish mafias?

In Pakistan, politically powerful persons have never been fairly trialed and convicted before a court of law. The problem lies, argue some experts, in Pakistan’s effective legal system which lacks competence and a strong will to punish powerful persons.

In the present case, some experts fear that the sugar mafia shall get away with these allegations on technical grounds. There has already been a decision by the SHC declaring the constitution of the commission illegal.

Read More: SC allows government to go after those involved in recent sugar crisis

If the sugar mafia does not face courts and ultimately explains the hidden agenda behind a manufactured sugar crisis in Pakistan, the PTI will continue to face questions about its role and political will in bringing looted national wealth back to the country.