Daily Briefs

Photo : Dawn

7 April 2020, Tuesday 

Sugar Crisis: The FIA report accuses PTI's Jahangir Tareen

PR Daily Brief | Lakshmi V Menon

The Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) report regarding the crippling sugar and wheat crises challenging Pakistan, released on 4 April, has revealed names of many political elites pertaining to the ruling PTI government, allied PML-Q and opposition parties. The report accuses them of gaining monetary benefits from the crises. The report accuses PTI leader Jahangir Tareen and a brother of ex-National Food Security minister Khusro Bakhtiar as being the main beneficiaries; but also reveals that (son of a key PML-Q leader) Moonis Elahi’s companies had utilized the situation and adds names of PML-N’s Chaudhry Munir and the Omni group as recipients. (The News International, 7 April 2020) 

However, the report does not reveal who influenced the Punjab government to issue sugar mill subsidies; why the Economic Coordination Council (ECC) approved sugar export; and whether EEC’s decision was with or without consultation with the PM. The ruling PTI government won the 2019 elections with its anti-corruption narrative and campaigns against allegedly corrupt PML-N and PPP; and hence will have to act swiftly. To PTI’s credit, Imran Khan himself had ordered the probe and called for it being made public. 

The sugar baron Tareen spilled some beans on the matter. He said differences between the Principal Secretary to PM, Azam Khan and himself on the vision for the country, need for bureaucratic hindrances and Tareen’s advocacy for prioritizing PTI’s Tabdeeli Agenda led to the accusations against him. He said he would not return the 500 million subsidies (a small sum he argued compared to the corresponding 2.5bn given during the PML-N’s rule) and argued that having paid 23bn taxes from 2015-2020, 500mn was no profit. Taalso pointed out that it was the government’s decision to not reduce the peaking sugarcane prices and to instead allow subsidies. 

On 25 April, the detailed report will be released. Meanwhile, ministers are being shuffled, hired anew, moved to OSD posts; and SAPM on accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar has announced PM’s promise for impartial austere action against offenders.  
The larger question is why the crisis was allowed to spiral into its present magnitude with a sheer lack of timely action.

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