Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders on Friday tore into the Sugar Inquiry Commission (SIC) report and criticised the incumbent government for saving real culprits of the scandal while terming the investigation ‘misleading’.
The opposition parties expressed their extreme reservations after PM’s aide on accountability Shahzad Akbar declared the findings of the sugar crisis inquiry public and said that the report “confirms the premier’s long held view that businessmen in politics will put business first”.
Addressing the press conference, PML-N lawmaker Malik Mohammad Ahmad lashed out at the inquiry commission for diverting attention from the scandal since 2018.
“We reject the inquiry report outright,” he maintained, adding that no one dares to ask on who is creating the scarcity of sugar by allowing exports despite low production in the country.
“Can [Usman] Bazdar get to decide the subsidisation of sugar without Imran Khan’s permission?” he then asked.
Meanwhile, PML-N leader Uzma Bukhari stated that the decision implemented by federal cabinet was the prerogative of the prime minister, who was the head of Economic Cordination Committee (ECC) , therefore, cases for abuse of power and damage to the national treasury should be filed against the decision makers and the stakeholders.
“If the government accepts that the smuggling has taken place then why haven’t they resigned immediately after receiving the report?” Bukhari lambasted, adding that after government’s subsidies to the mill owners, the price of sugar spiked from Rs 55 to close to Rs100 in the country.
Referring to PML-N’s ruling tenure, the lawmaker noted that despite the subsidies in prices, the former government ensured that the sugar prices do not hike-up while burdening the citizens of the country.
“[If] Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif can appear before court, why not Imran Khan?” she said.
The leader went on to add that no forensic audit was carried out against Khusro Bakhtiar’s mills, who was the minister on food security at that time, despite Rs40 crore transaction was made in the name of Bakhtiar’s employee.
Raising concerns on the dismissal of Jahangir Tareen and biased treatment of the government, Bukhari maintained that Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar had made decisions under political influence and Tareen was fired soon after his job was done.
“We will see government’s action after Eid, otherwise, we will knock on the door of court for justice on the matter,” Bukhari proclaimed.
‘Damning revelations in Sugar Inquiry Commission’s report’
The Sugar Inquiry Commission report, which finally made its way to the prime minister in its final form, had laid bare some startling revelations about how the price of sugar is fixed, how exports of the commodity are faked to avail rebates on sales taxes, and how billions of rupees are overcharged by sugar mills owners on Thursday.
According to sources, the report mentioned in depth how the amount of sugar exported to Afghanistan is routinely inflated to show as if 75 tonnes of the commodity are being exported per truck.
However, this is barely possible, given that the maximum capacity of a truck, even when overloaded, does not exceed 30 tonnes.
The scam also seemingly has another purpose: laundering money. If sugar is being exported to Afghanistan, the payment should also be coming in from the same country.
However, it was found by the commission that many sugar mill owners were receiving telegraphic transfers for payments for sugar sold to Afghanistan from the US and Dubai, therefore seemingly whitening money and earning dollars at the same time.
Another important finding highlighted in the report is that sugar mills paid an estimated Rs22bn in taxes to the Government of Pakistan, but out of that total amount, Rs12bn was reclaimed in rebates. Hence, the net contribution was close to around Rs10bn.