–PML-N chief Shehbaz questions export of wheat in spite of its shortage, calls PM ‘incompetent’
–Federal govt claims crisis was ‘artificial’, blames it on provinces, ‘real estate mafia’
–Sindh govt says PTI playing ‘dirty blame game’, questions queues for flour in Punjab, KP
ISLAMABAD: As the flour crisis continues across the country, the opposition parties have called for a probe in the flour crisis across the country, alleging that the government exported at least 40,000 metric tonnes of wheat in spite of an internal shortage.
Pakistan was hit by a massive wheat shortage, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) which had only two days of reserves left, earlier this week after a shortage in the commodity led to an increase of Rs6 per kg price of flour. The government blamed it on ‘hoarders’ –calling it an ‘artificial crisis’– and decided to move against them.
However, the opposition questioned the export of wheat, with Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly (NA) Shehbaz Sharif demanding an inquiry into the authorisation of the export. “When there was an internal shortage, why were wheat and flour sent abroad?” he asked while taking to Twitter.
In a series of tweets, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief demanded that answers be provided to the nation for who was behind this act and at what price was the wheat sold. “The nation must know who benefitted from having caused such harm to the country,” he added.
He also questioned the reason behind the shortage of wheat, saying whatever happened to the country’s wheat stockpile over 16 months. He questioned if the wheat was exported without any ulterior motives, then it provided that the prime minister was “unaware” and “incompetent”. Else, “He is the ringleader of corrupt elements,” he added.
Meanwhile, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) also took the government to the task of miring the country into yet another crisis.
Its Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had alleged that the federal government had sent 40,000 metric tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan, and thus, intentionally had created a wheat crisis. Claiming that the government had a lot of wheat that was not being supplied to the people, he alleged that Prime Minister Imran Khan had perhaps created this crisis to benefit his cronies.
GOVT PLAYS BLAME GAME:
Without any mention of shortage in KP, Punjab, and Balochistan, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government went after Sindh and accused it of showing “negligence in the procurement of wheat”.
Addressing a press conference in Sialkot, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan denied the notion that the government was responsible for the prevailing crisis.
“After the Sindh government’s negligence in not buying flour in a timely manner, 400,000 tonnes of wheat was given to the province from the federal government’s strategic reserves on the directives of the prime minister,” she said.
“From the total wheat allocated, the Sindh government has only taken 100,000 tonnes of wheat. This goes to show that the shortage of wheat in Sindh, and the subsequent increase in the price of the commodity, is due to an issue in the supply. The Sindh government has failed to ensure that the wheat is supplied to mills in the province. Due to this, flour mills are not working at full capacity and there has been a sharp increase in flour prices,” she added.
The SAPM urged the provincial government to expedite the supply chain and provide flour to the mills so that prices can be reduced.
She said that the “real estate mafia” has started stocking agricultural commodities to whiten its black money by selling them at higher prices when they see an opportunity.
“PM Imran has ordered a crackdown on this mafia and with the power of the people we will defeat hoarders since the premier himself has promised the nation that he would not allow profiteers to amass wealth illegally,” she added.
She claimed that the Centre has been providing wheat to flour mills across Punjab at subsidised rates and the public can purchase flour, wheat, rice, and pulses from the utility stores at cheap prices.
“We need to defeat this negative propaganda against the government. The provincial governments were negligent in the procurement of wheat. Punjab produces 60 per cent additional wheat and it gets stocked if not procured timely,” she added.
‘SHORTAGE IN SINDH’:
However, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah took an exception to the claims made by the federal government. In a statement, he said that 300,000 tonnes of wheat have been allocated for Sindh by PASSCO which will be brought in from Punjab and Balochistan.
He added that the delay in transporting the wheat had been caused by the transporters’ strike. “At least 70,000 bags of wheat have reached Karachi today. By tomorrow, an additional 50,000 bags will also be delivered,” he further said.
Moreover, Sindh Information Minister Saeed Ghani demanded that the prime minister should appear on television and apologise to the nation for the shortage. He held the premier responsible for the wheat shortage in Sindh as well as the rest of the country.
“Is the Sindh government also responsible for the shortage in Punjab?” he pointed out. He claimed that wheat from Punjab had been sent to KP and a shortage was intentionally created in Punjab.”The PTI government is playing a dirty game by blaming Sindh,” he added.
The provincial minister criticised the federal government for being occupied with blaming Sindh while there were queues lined up in Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta of people for flour. “The PTI government cannot put up this act for much longer where it blames others to hide its own incompetence,” he added.
Meanwhile, nanbais in Punjab and KP have also asked the government to provide them flour at the previous rate or to allow them to increase the price of naan and roti. While their associations in Punjab have given the government a five-day ultimatum, those in KP have announced a strike against the government on Monday.