PM displeased over threats to probe panel

-Wheat, Sugar inquiry report presented in Cabinet meeting
-Says action imminent against accused after final report
-Vows to protect interest of farmers at all costs

By Ajmal Khan Yousafzai

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday assured the Federal Cabinet that all necessary initiatives would be taken to protect the interests of farmers and ensure supply of edibles items to general public at affordable prices.
Briefing the media persons about Cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Special Assistant to the PM on Information and roadcasting Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan said Special Assistant to the PM on Accountability Shahzad Akbar presented the inquiry report on flour and sugar crisis before the Cabinet at the outset of meeting on the directives of the Prime Minister.
She said Shahzad Akbar informed the Cabinet that the concerned ministry had presented the report in the ECC meeting that there was about 2 million tones surplus sugar available in the country.
She said that after bumper crop of the sugarcane, the mill owners pleaded that they were unable to purchase the same due to already available stock. In this situation the PM was briefed that for saving the interest of the farmers, it was necessary to hold consultations with mill owners and take export-oriented initiative.
She said that the PM issued directives for resolution of the farmers problems, however the federal government did not give any subsidy on the export of sugar.

She said the Cabinet was informed that in 2017, Salman Shahbaz, the son of former chief minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif approached the then PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to give Rs 20 billion subsidy for sugar export.
Similarly during 2014-18, Sindh government gave Rs 20 subsidy per kilogram on the sugar to benefit Omni group. The SAPM said the present government for the first time since 2014 increased the price of sugarcane to protect the interests of the growers. The government has decided to take strict action against those involved in artificial crisis of wheat and sugar after release of Inquiry Commission’s final report on April 25, she said. She said that after inquiry report, specific questions arose about effectiveness of the sugar policy. She said that the Cabinet decided to take corrective measures to save the people from any such artificial crisis in future.
She said that it was decided to introduce reforms in Competition Commission of Pakistan to make it an effective origination to control cartelization. Besides, modern technology would be introduced in collection and maintenance of sugar industry data so that nobody could hoodwink the system in future, she added. Firdous Ashiq Awan said the prime minister has warned that strict action would be taken against those found involved in hurling threats to the Commission.
The Special Assistant said the Prime Minister has directed to resolve the issues being faced by growers and farmers on immediate basis.
She said the government machinery was fully active to ensure the availability of quality edibles at affordable prices and no negligence would be tolerated in this regard. Giving details of the Cabinet agenda, she said that it gave approval to the decisions of Cabinet committee on energy besides approving inclusion of 62 more districts in universal service fund to improve broadband service there. She said that the Cabinet approved proposals regarding revamping, reconstructing and reorganizing Evacuee Trust Property Board and gave approval to utilization Evacuee Trust Board land for welfare purposes including health, education and housing sectors.
Dr Firdous said that Special Assistant on Social Protection Dr Sania Nishtar gave detailed briefing to the Cabinet on Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme. She said that the Cabinet was informed that the federal government was providing cash assistance worth Rs12,000 to over 12 million deserving families under Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme following coronavirus outbreak in the country.
The deserving families, she said, would get this cash assistance after biometric verification through over 18,065 sale points or retail shops across the country. She said that Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza briefed about the current the situation of ongoing coronavirus and the relief steps being taken. He informed the meeting that so far 3864 coronavirus patient had been registered in the country and 54 deaths have been confirmed.
She said that the Prime Minister expressed his annoyance over the treatment meted out to doctors in Balochistan and said that doctors and paramedical staff were the frontline soldiers in war against corona and it was responsibility of the concerned governments to provide them protective gears so that they could focus on their work.
The Cabinet was informed that so far over 39,000 protective kits have been handed over to the provinces but these have not reached the hospitals in enough numbers. The Cabinet decided that from now onward, these kits would be directly sent to the Medical Superintendents of the hospitals through courier service to speed up the delivery process. She said that SAPM on Youth Affairs Usman Dar was specially invited in the meeting who briefed it about the registration of volunteers for Tiger Volunteer Force. He said that so far 7,17,199 persons have registered themselves for the force which would work at district, Tehsil and union council level to support the district administration in rescue, relief and rehabilitation activities, she added.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Information and Broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan said on Tuesday Prime Minister Imran Khan will take action against those behind the recent sugar and wheat crises in the country on the basis of a final inquiry report on April 25. Briefing the media on today’s meeting of the federal cabinet, she said the government would bring in reforms to ward off such artificial crises in future. She added the inquiry report on the sugar crisis raised many a question on the sugar policy.
SAPM Awan said Prime Minister Khan took strong exception to threats extended to the inquiry commission that carried out a thorough probe into the shortages of wheat and sugar which took a heavy toll on the masses in January. She quoted the premier as saying that if relevant elements again resort to such an act, they will not go unpunished, adding he clarified that no one will be allowed to create hurdles to dispensation of justice. Ms Awan said the federal cabinet endorsed the Cabinet Committee on Energy’s (CCE) decisions and approved a suggestion for setting up a task force to reorganize the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB). The special assistant said the government’s flagship Ehsaas programme is extending financial assistance to the poor without any discrimination.