Government to initiate legal action against sugar tycoons after Eid

In this file photo, a Pakistani laborer carries a bag of sugar through a market in Karachi on April 30, 2008. (AFP)
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Updated 22 May 2020

Government to initiate legal action against sugar tycoons after Eid

  • Investigators audited six groups which hold 51 percent of Pakistan’s sugar production
  • Report says the mills have ‘for years’ underinvoiced sales and kept ‘double account books’ to evade taxes

ISLAMABAD: The government is going to initiate legal action against Pakistan’s major sugar mills after Eid Al-Fitr, officials said on Thursday.
“With the approval of the prime minister, we will initiate criminal proceedings against them after Eid,” Shehzad Akbar, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s aide on accountability, said at press conference held to present the findings of the Sugar Forensic Commission, which investigated a sugar crisis that gripped the country earlier this year.
“Sugar mill owners have cheated farmers and evaded taxes, as the relevant state institutions failed to check them,” Akbar said, while sharing the main points of the commission’s report.
The commission’s investigators audited six major sugar groups which hold 51 percent of Pakistan’s production to examine how they were exploiting farmers, tricking the state and selling their commodity at exorbitant rates in the local market.
“A process of reforms will be initiated in relevant institutions along with devising a mechanism to see as to how we can make recoveries (from the mills’ owners),” Akbar said.
“In 2017-18, sugar mills determined the cost of production at Rs51 per kilo whereas the report gave an estimate of Rs38 instead,” Akbar said, “In 2018-19, sugar mills calculated cost price at Rs52.60 while the report gave an estimate of Rs40.”
According to the report, the mills have “for years” under invoiced sales and kept “double account books” to evade taxes.
Akbar said the sugar commission has named a number of influential people who, according to its findings, benefited from sugar export subsidies and profited from the commodity’s rising prices in the local market. On its list are: the prime minister’s close aide and former secretary general of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Jahangir Khan Tareen; lawmaker Moonis Elahi from Pakistan Muslim League Quaid (PML-Q); son of the opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif; and brother of Economic Affairs Minister Khusro Bakhtiar. 
The sugar mills, Akbar said, also exploited the farmers by using informal receipts.
“It was ultimately the farmer who was crushed because there was no official record. The mill owners showed the price of production as more than the support price which meant that farmers earned less.”
Sugar cane is a popular crop in Pakistan for which the government sets procurement prices. The industry is further protected by a 40 percent import tariff.


PM Khan inaugurates Peshawar BRT project

Updated 13 August 2020

PM Khan inaugurates Peshawar BRT project

  • Launched in 2017, the project had to be completed in six months but missed several deadlines
  • Opposition figures say all corruption allegations surrounding the project must be probed

PESHAWAR: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday inaugurated Peshawar’s long-awaited Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, calling it the best metro bus service available in Pakistan. 
“I had serious reservations about the project initially,” he said, “but it is one of the best models of transportation system in the country. I congratulate you all and [former chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province] Pervez Khattak who used to say we would realize the significance of the project after its completion.”
Launched in October 2017 at an estimated cost of Rs. 49 billion, the 27-kilometer-long BRT corridor had to be completed within a span of six months. However, the project got delayed and missed at least four deadlines in 2018 and 2019.
Addressing the media in Peshawar on Wednesday, Chief Minister Mahmood Khan acknowledged that the earlier inauguration dates announced by his predecessor were mistakes.
However, Alamgir Bangash, who works with the government-owned TransPeshawar Company, told Arab News that the project got delayed since its design had to undergo some changes which also increased its cost to a staggering Rs. 66 billion.
Praising the project, the prime minister said that it connected the city’s main arteries and went as far away as the Torkham border that separates the Afghan and Pakistani territories.
The introduction of hybrid diesel buses, he continued, would effectively tackle the traffic congestion and reduce air pollution in Peshawar.
The TransPeshawar Company has already acquired a fleet of 200 hybrid air-conditioned buses to cover the BRT corridor, Bangash informed.
“We are still doing some infrastructure and beautification work on three stations,” he said. “But this will not hamper the service that has started today.”
The political rivals of the ruling party criticized the BRT, however, and claimed that it was not a viable project for Peshawar.
“The BRT project was flawed from the outset and it was also surrounded by corruption allegations,” said Sardar Hussain Babak, a senior leader of the Awami National Party, while talking to Arab News. “Even now we don’t know if the project has been completed or it is a premature inauguration.”
“I suggest the PTI must probe the corruption allegations related to this if it is truly striving to uproot financial irregularities from the country,” he added.