The Punjab government has refused to give wheat to PTI-governed Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, despite having a million tonnes of wheat in surplus, Pakistan Today has learnt.
The KP government in a letter written to Punjab’s Food Department requested for import of 400,000 tonnes of wheat to meet the shortage. However, the provincial regime in Punjab outright refused to give the favour to the province.
Insiders said Punjab was the major wheat producer in the country, while the crop in KP and Sindh was almost negligible, implying that the country’s largest province was actually the bread basket for the entire country. Sources in the government confided that Punjab had currently 4 million tonnes of wheat in surplus, while officials estimate the annual consumption of around three million tonnes in the most-populated province.
“The situation is pretty normal. We have ample stock for our needs and there is no fear of a shortage this year or the next,” Food Secretary Aslam Kamboh told Pakistan Today.
Even in the Wednesday’s session of the Punjab Assembly, the opposition, mostly consisting of PTI MPAs, pressed upon the government for giving wheat to KP, however, the government showed no signs of budging from its stance.
Senior officials also maintained there was no legal embargo on inter-provincial trade and provinces were free to trade commodities.
The Food Directorate, however, said the Punjab government did not refuse to sell them wheat. “We rather showed them the right path. PASSCO is actually the government agency responsible for procuring wheat from surplus areas and providing it to deficit provinces. We have only asked them to purchase it from PASSCO.”
Food Director Capt (r) Usman said TORs of PASSCO clearly mentioned that it was its job to address wheat shortage.
Adviser to KP CM on Food Qalandar Lodhi said KP wrote a letter to the Punjab government requesting for wheat supply, who asked them [the KPK government] to contact PASSCO.
“Now the first tranche of the supply of 100,000 tonnes of wheat from PASSCO is on its way,” Lodhi said. However, he said the KPK government requested Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to waive off Rs 1.5 billion incidental charges on wheat, but the PM “regretted”.
“The PM, however, gave 150,000 tonnes of wheat in grant to the world bank’s food programme at a time when our province was in a crisis situation. The PM is the PM of all provinces, whichever party is ruling. We have decided to once again request the PM to make it a grant to ease the situation of people in the KP,” he added.
Food Secretary Aslam Kamboh, however, said the Punjab government had to cater to a huge population besides 900 flour mills across the province, and a shortage would result in unemployment and unrest.