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CJ asks govt not to yield to millers

LAHORE High Court Chief Justice Khawaja Muhammad Sharif has observed that federal and provincial governments should not yield before sugar mills mafia but deal with them with iron hands to resolve the crisis.

The chief justice was hearing a suo motu case taken of the prevailing sugar crisis along with Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry here on Wednesday. The high court bench observed that people would not vote for the present rulers in future if they failed to resolve the sugar crisis. The CJ pointed out that there was no coordination within the federal government as the prime minister had ordered a crackdown on sugar hoarders while the federal minister for industries had ordered to release those arrested. He said a sugar crisis had also surfaced during the regime of Pervez Musharraf and he had referred the matter to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) which nabbed the responsible(s) and resolved the crisis. He said the rulers should not be blackmailed by the sugar mill owners because it was the responsibility of the government to ensure the availability of the essential commodities at fair prices.

On behalf of federal government, Attorney General Pakistan Sardar Latif Khan Khosa informed the court that 83 sugar mills were operating in the country and they included 45 in Punjab, 31 in Sindh and seven in NWFP. The sugar crisis was result of shortfall in production, he said, adding that only six million tonne sugar had been produced this year against the annual consumption of eight million tonne.

Mr Khosa said sugar prices increased in the local market after the international price went up Rs 60 per kg. The prime minister had, however, ordered strict action for keeping the prices of foodstuff under control, he maintained, adding that special magistrates had not only seized huge stocks of sugar but also arrested mill owners and dealers during the raids. He said the government was giving Rs 98 million subsidy on sugar which would be sold at the rate Rs 49.50 in the open market and Rs 38 per kg at the utility stores.

A lady officer, appearing on behalf of the Food Ministry, said the condition to show national identity cards at the utility stores had been put aside. However, a consumer could buy only two kg sugar, she said.

The chief justice expressed the apprehension that sale of sugar at utility stores would create law and order problems. There would be long queues and not more than 5 million people would be able to benefit from the sale of sugar at the utility stores out of 160 million population of the country.

Acting Advocate General, Punjab, Hanif Khatana opposed the federal government proposal to sell sugar at the rate of Rs 49.50 in the open market. He pointed out that the Punjab government had purchased sugar at the rate of Rs 40 per kg and would make it available at the same price in the Ramazan Bazaars. He said the Punjab government had seized 230,000 tonne sugar during raids and it had disposed of 30,000 tonne of the seized sugar in the market.

Punjab Food Secretary Irfan Elahi said the sugar crisis had surfaced during the past two or three weeks and the provincial government was taking steps to resolve it.

The court issued notice to the Trading Corporation of Pakistan chairman to appear with relevant record and adjourned the hearing of the case till August 26.

Source: The News

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