Buzdar records statement in sugar probe

Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar on Wednesday recorded his statement before the high-powered commission probing into the sugar crisis in the country.

According to a media report, Buzdar was brought to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) headquarters from its back entrance instead of the front gate.

The commission led by FIA Director General Wajid Zia questioned the Punjab chief minister regarding the subsidy given on sugar export. He was also asked about the transfer of food department secretaries and other officials. Buzdar was unable to respond to some questions, the report claimed.

The commission had also summoned Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah to appear before it on Wednesday and explain the additional subsidy granted to sugar mills in the fiscal year 2017-18. However, the Sindh advocate general wrote a letter to the FIA director general informing him that the commission could not summon the chief minister under its own terms of reference.

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Summoning the chief minister is in violation of Section 3 of the Commission of Inquiry Act, 2017, he added.

On Tuesday, Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar also appeared before the commission and responded to its queries about the Economic Coordination Committee’s (ECC) decision to allow sugar export even though there were no surplus stocks.

In April, the government went public with the findings of the inquiry committee tasked with probing into the sugar crisis.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had vowed not to spare those found guilty of creating and profiting off the sugar and wheat crises once he received the detailed forensic reports of the commission’s preliminary findings on April 25. Later, the commission was given three more weeks to submit the reports.

The report on sugar crisis revealed that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s former secretary general Jahangir Khan Tareen and former national food security minister Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar were among the main beneficiaries.

Both stalwarts of the PTI went away with a Rs1.03 billion subsidy on the export of sugar, paid from taxpayers’ money, which was equal to 41 per cent of the total subsidy the government of Punjab paid to sugar barons, according to the report.

“Sugar mill owners who availed maximum subsidy had political clout and influence in decision making and they tried to gain maximum benefit in a very limited time,” revealed the report.

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