IHC allows govt to act against those held responsible for sugar crisis

The Islamabad High Court short for IHC on Saturday issued a petition registered by leading sugar mill owners challenging the inquiry report of the committee constituted to examine the sugar scam, setting aside its earlier order that prohibited the government from taking action against those held responsible.

On June 11, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah had allowed a stay order against the instructions of the inquiry commission regarding the sugar scam that has called for registration of cases against sugar mill owners.

The petition was filed by the entire sugar industry, including family members of PTI leader Jahangir Khan Tarren, opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif and federal minister Khurso Bakhtiar.

The petitioners claim that the inquiry report exceeds the constitutional authorization and limitations of Federal Commission of Inquiry constituted under the 2017 Act, as it intrudes into matters within the exclusive legislative and executive domain of provinces.”

In the short order, the IHC noticed that the constitution of commission and its report did not breach the fundamental rights of the petitioners. The IHC said, “The report was therefore lawfully considered by the federal cabinet.”

The order also said that the federal cabinet could not under the Constitution delegate functions and powers vested in the federal government, as it had been previously decided by the Supreme Court.
The IHC also said “In the light of this the federal cabinet’s decision to assign power to Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar was not in accordance with the law provided by the Supreme Court.

Seeing this the federal cabinet decided to entrust Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Accountability of Shahzad Akbar who was not in accordance with the law laid by the Supreme Court.

The court noted that the federal government had the power to send a reference to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) under the National Accountability Ordinance,1999.
The reference said “The learned attorney general has stated that he would advise the competent authority to submit the proposed action(s) for the consideration of federal cabinet. The federal cabinet after considering the proposed action(s) shall be at liberty to take such decision as it may deem appropriate.”

Sugar Inquiry Report:
The sugar inquiry commission had been established by the government in the first week of April following the release of two separate inquiry reports of the FIA on the issue of artificial shortage of sugar and wheat in the country and sudden increase in their prices last year. 
The inquiry report on sugar had revealed the name of many bigwigs including Tareen the former secretary-general of ruling PTI and close acquaintance of the prime minister, who had supposedly benefitted from the crisis.

After the report was released the opposition demanded that the prime minister should take strict action against those who had been stated responsible for the crisis by the FIA committee.

The Prime Minister had assured that he would take an action but said he would do that after receiving a forensic audit report from the commission that he had constituted on the recommendation of the initial report.

Last month the government had made the inquiry report public which blamed key political figures ad government executives for wrongdoings within the industry. Among those involved include Tareen and PML-Q MNA Moonis Elahi.

The commission was critical of the role Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar who is the adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce and Industries, Razak Dawood and Punjab’s Chief Minister Usman Buzdar on the issue of sugar export payment as they failed to appease the commission.

The commission what was created to inquire the recent sugar crisis in the country from they noticed that during 2017 to 18 the subsidy granted by the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) was Rs10.7 per kg for exports of two million tonnes of sugar, Sindh was provided with an additional subsidy of more Rs4billion. A decrease of Rs 1 per kg of subsidy means saving more than Rs 2billion.

Even if the observation from the Finance Division are ignored and the only adjustment of Rs 5.10 per kg is to be considered, this would have saved more than Rs 10 billion. The major export subsidy was availed after January 2018. Therefore, a timely intervention could have saved billions of rupees.

Based on the report, Pakistan exported more than four million tonnes of sugar over the past five years and more than Rs29 billion had been provided to sugar mills as an export subsidy.
The report also said “Exporting sugar with subsidy means that we are exporting on international rates which are lower than the cost of production claimed by sugar mills and the differential of this cost is being paid from the taxpayer hard-earned money.”

IHC

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