Pressure mounts on Imran ahead of sugar, wheat reports

ISLAMABAD: Multiple pressures are building over Prime Minister Imran Khan as the forensic audit report of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) probe report on sugar and wheat scam is about to be finalised by April 25.

Prime Minister Imran Khan constituted two high-powered committees under FIA director general and comprising a senior officer of the Intelligence Bureau and Anti-Corruption Establishment Punjab DG to investigate the causes behind the crises and price hike of the said commodities.

After the formation of the said committees, the prime minister had repeatedly resolved to expose and penalize those found responsible for the sugar and wheat crises to avoid the recurrence of such acts.

Since top leaders of the ruling party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), are being probed for their alleged role in award of subsidy to top sugar mills owners, political pressure is mounting on the prime minister.

It is being claimed that Prime Minister Khan and DG FIA Wajid Zia, who is heading the Commission, were advised to stop the probe otherwise, the sugar price may go up to Rs110/kg. The DG FIA informed the PM’s Office about the threats he had received.

The forensic report is coming next week amid reported threats to Prime Minister Imran Khan as well as DG FIA Wajid Zia asking for immediately stopping the probe into the sugar. However, the premier stood his ground.

A source in PTI told Pakistan Today that following the reports of threats to DG FIA, PTI stalwart Jahangir Tareen contacted Prime Minister Imran Khan and clarified that he had no role in alleged threats.

“Tareen has also sent a subtle message that he would welcome whatever report comes out. However, Tareen has assured the premier that his hands are clean and there is nothing to prove him guilty in the report,” the source added.

The source said that Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, another character in the scam, has also clarified that neither he nor any of his relatives had benefitted from the subsidy.

“It is interesting to note that when the decision of subsidy to be given to sugar and wheat producers was made, Khusro was holding portfolio of Ministry of Planning and Development which has nothing to do with the award of subsidy. It was actually Makhdoom Mehboob Sultan who was Minister for National Food Security. Moreover, Khusro’s brother, Hashim Jawan Bakht, had opposed the decision.  Rather, Hashim has also attached a dissenting note with the decision, opposing the decision to export sugar,” the source added.

CORONAVIRUS CHALLENGE:

Another challenge the prime minister faces in next few months is the situation evolving amid Prime Minister Imran Khan’s decision to easing out restrictions on various sectors of the economy.

While Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has been advocating to further enforcing the restrictions on public movement, Prime Minister Khan has decided to ‘facilitate’ the poor and middle-class population which is reaching the tipping point due to continued lockdown.

The source said that initially, various stakeholders were not agreeing to the prime minister’s decision to fully enforce lockdown. However, when the number of loot and street crimes increased suddenly despite lockdown, the security forces also advised the federal and provincial governments to ease out restrictions.

“During the recent sitting of the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah also admitted the fact street crime was increasing to an alarming stage and he agreed to lax the restrictions on construction sector which would also open ten related sectors of the economy,” the source concluded.

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The writer heads Pakistan Today's Islamabad Bureau. He has a special focus on counter-terrorism and inter-state relations in Asia, Asia Pacific and South East Asia regions. He can be reached at [email protected]

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