Shibli responds to PML-N, calls Sharif family ‘ringleader’ of sugar mafia

ISLAMABAD: Hitting back at PML-N leaders who slammed PM Imran over the sugar commission report, information minister Shibli Faraz described the Sharif family as the ‘ringleader’ of the sugar mafia in the country.

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“Sharif family used politics for their businesses,” alleged the minister, addressing a press conference in Islamabad. He said that gaining wealth was what drove the Sharif family’s politics.

“Sharif family used institutions without any remorse,” he said. Shibli added that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s politics’ main objective was to help the poor of the country.

‘Report proves businessmen in politics will put business first’

Shahzad Akbar, the premier’s aide on accountability, on Thursday declared the findings of the sugar crisis inquiry public and said that the report “confirms the premier’s longheld view that businessmen in politics will put business first”.

He had said that the sugar inquiry commission was set up because there has been a cycle of sugar price increases from December 2018 to August 2019, where prices were hiked up to 33%, which, in rupee terms, translates to Rs17 per kilogramme.

“In view of the rise in prices, the premier set up a three-member inquiry committee under FIA DG Wajid Zia and which presented a detailed report to the prime minister, wherein problems associated with the sugar industry that were causing price hikes were highlighted,” Akbar had said.

He said that DG anti-corruption Punjab and one member each from Intelligence Bureau (IB), Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) were made part of the committee.

“This commission worked for a very brief period and submitted a final report to the cabinet and today, a special cabinet meeting was called.

“In the meeting, Wajid Zia, the head of commission, presented the report and then the cabinet had a detailed discussion and the cabinet was briefed on the basic points of the report and what recommendations have been included, which I’ll share in a bit. I request you all to patiently listen,” the premier’s aide had said.

Akbar had said that the report is “very detailed” and acknowledged there will be many questions, promising to answer all.

Addressing the media persons present, he said that he “cannot share copies because it is too detailed”.

Akbar then said that he will go over the “basic points” of the report. Breaking off from what seemed like the start of a briefing on the findings, the aide paused to say: “The prime minister in his 22 year struggle has reiterated one thing over and over, which is that when a person doing business comes into politics, then they would do business in politics as well. At the expense of the public.”

“You can see clearly in this report how a business group has captured this whole industry and that includes institutional capture, regulatory capture, and it has paralysed the entire system and put the ultimate burden on the people,” he had said.

Six big players

Listing shares of the six major parties in the sugar industry, Akbar said JDW has 20% (the biggest share), RYK 12%, Al Moiz Group 6.8%, Tanliawal Group 5%, Sharifs Group 4.5% and Omni Group 1.6%.

He said with a 51% share of the sugar industry, they were acting as a ”cartel”.

He named in particular Shehbaz Sharif’s family, Jahangir Tareen, Khusro Bakhtiar and Moonis Elahi while discussing the findings.

Akbar said the Al-Arabiya Sugar Mills owned by Salman Shehbaz Sharif was also audited, which found to be involved in “a fraud of Rs400 million through informal receipts and market manipulation”.

He said that the company engaged in “double reporting”.

In 2017-18, the company raked in additional profits of Rs1.3bn and when 2018-19, they earned Rs780 million.

Akbar said the JDW Sugar Mills in which Jahangir Tareen owns 21% shares, were found guilty of “double billing” and “over-invoicing” as well as “corporate fraud”.

It under-invoiced sales from bagasse and molasses, which resulted in 25% cost inflation, said the premier’s aide.

The mill was “involved in forward sales, satta and benami sales”, Akbar said.

Speaking of Khusro Bakhtiar’s brother, he said that Omar Shehryar is the one who owns a sugar mill and does not hold political office. “We cannot ask Khusro Bakhtiar to resign from his post (as minister for food security). An inquiry will be initiated against whoever is directly involved.”

He said the audit of Alliance Sugar Mill from Rahim Yar Khan, in which Pakistan Muslim League- Quaid (PML-Q) senior leader Moonis Elahi has a 34% stake, showed that between 2014 to 2018, it made a systematic cut of 11% to 14% of the amount it owed to the farmers, which translated to Rs970 million.

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