Prime Minister Imran Khan has acknowledged that the recent hike in prices of essential commodities and their shortage was due to his government’s negligence.
Addressing the distribution ceremony for Sehat Sahulat Cards in Governor House Lahore, the prime minister said that imports had become costlier after the rupee fell in value, which he attributed to soaring prices of “ghee and cooking oil”.
“On the other hand, the hike in the prices of essentials was due to the government’s negligence, and a proper investigation is being carried out in this regard,” Khan said.
Those who have benefited off the backs of people in need will be penalised, he vowed, adding that the government is trying to bring a system in place to anticipate such a situation.
Lamenting the state of the economy inherited by his government, Khan said: “When we assumed office, our imports were Rs60bn while our exports were Rs20bn. We had a trade deficit of Rs40bn.”
The prime minister said that he would take action against those responsible for the sugar and wheat price hike after he has read detailed reports of the preliminary findings.
“I await the detailed forensic reports now by a high-powered commission, which will come out on April 25, before taking action,” the prime minister said in a tweet.
“After these reports come out, no powerful lobby will be able to profiteer at the expense of our public,” said the premier.
He added that the preliminary reports had already been released without and “alteration or tampering”.
“This is unprecedented in Pakistan’s history. Previous political leaderships, because of their vested interests and compromises, lacked the moral courage to order and release such reports,” the prime minister added.
A report by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) stated that top Pakistan Tekreek-e-Insaf (PTI) members were among those who gained from the recent sugar crisis in the country.
An investigation into the crisis had been ordered by Prime Minister Khan in February.
Among the people named in the FIA report are PTI leaders Jahangir Tareen and a brother of Minister for National Food Security Khusro Bakhtiar.
Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif has said that the report was an “indictment” against Prime Minister Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar.
Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb urged the government to take action against those involved in the crisis.
“We have a report that proves what we had been saying about these two [Tareen and a brother of Bakhtiar] all along. Action needs to be taken against them,” she told local media.
Aurangzeb said that the individuals should be removed from their posts, adding that the prime minister should not wait till April 25.
Tareen was said by the report to have benefited the most from the sugar crisis, followed by Bakhtiar’s brother.
The report also states that the companies belonging to Moonis Elahi – an ally of the ruling PTI party – profited from the sugar crisis.
Elahi is Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi’s son and a key member of the Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q), which is a junior partner in government.
The document does not mention under whose influence the Punjab government issued subsidies to sugar mills or why the Economic Co-ordination Council (ECC) approved the decision to export sugar.
Reacting to the report, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar said he had faith that whatever the situation, Prime Minister Khan “will ensure justice”.
The prime minister was also sent the investigation report on the wheat crisis, compiled by a three-member bench headed by Wajid Zia.
As per the report, the crisis originated due to poor planning by the Centre and provincial governments.
The report states that the Punjab Food Department was unable to control flour mills and started collecting wheat after a delay of 20-22 days.
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