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Fish rot from the top

It is a matter of record that practice of doling out subsidy on export of sugar was started in the last PML-N government. Former Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had always approved it in the meetings of Executive Committee of the Cabinet (ECC), later approved in the cabinet meetings which were not regularly held.

Grant of subsidies across-the- party divide on sugar and wheat flour export was made part and parcel of the country’s financial system, institutionalizing it to benefit the feudal and mercantile oligarchy in the rank and file of all political parties. Competitive Commission of Pakistan (CCP) had been made dysfunctional in the PPP government and rendered toothless by the PML-N government to strengthen the cartels of sugar, wheat flour and other food commodities.

Interestingly, leadership of opposition political parties are now creating an impression as if the onus of pseudo sugar prices and grant of subsidy on it, cartelization of economy, hoarding and profiteering lie on the PTI government. It is nothing but to hoodwink public opinion, the political gimmick, which may not work.

The leadership of other two mainstream political parties,while in power, did not dare to order inquiry whenever shortages of essential consumers’ goods occurred. In 2015 price of pulses went up abnormally. Instead of probing the matter, former Ishaq Dar advised people in his budget speech to eat chicken. The advice was identical to that of Queen of France in starvation era18th century that people should eat cake instead of bread. Credit must be given to the style of leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan for ordering inquiry against the sugar and wheat crisis to find out its causes and bring to justice the people involved in it.

Leader of the opposition and PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif, while commenting on the FIA report on sugar crisis described it a charge sheet against the Prime Minister and Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar. He demanded that Prime Minister should take action against himself being head of the ECC and Chief Minister of Punjab on account of payment of subsidy.

What a strange logic of shifting the buck of wrong practice of subsidy that was inherited from previous governments. Being part of sugar cartel, Sharif family has been availing export subsidy for the past seven years. When the Prime Minister is clearing this economic mess by ordering inquiry and forensic audit, hue and cry is made and smear campaign has been launched against him by the leadership of opposition parties, who are the major beneficiaries of export subsidy on sugar and wheat.

Singing the same tune, PPP Punjab President Qamar Zaman Kaira made a sweeping political statement, saying that FIA Report has shaken the foundation of PTI government as senior leader of the ruling party Jahangir Tareen and Federal Minister for National Food Security Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar and PML-Q leader Monis Elahi have been named in the report. He argued that action against the individuals found involved in sugar crisis should not be delayed till forensic audit report is out.

Yes the demand seems appropriate. However, the cycle of pseudo sugar price was started and encouraged in the previous PPP government. The Supreme Court had passed an order on October 3, 2009 for the formation of a commission to be headed by the Chairman CCP Khalid Mirza on the surge in sugar price.

Central President of Awami National Party (ANP) Asfandiyar Wali has expressed pessimism about the Prime Minister’s firm resolve of bringing to justice the elements who are found involved in sugar crisis, alleging that these elements had made investment for bringing PTI to power.

ANP was a coalition partner in both PPP and PML-N governments in whose tenures of governments’ wheat and sugar crisis were never probed. The Prime Minister believes in action. He responded to the demand of opposition by applying the principle that charity begins at home. Can such robust and timely action be found in previous governments?

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