Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said on Sunday that the shortage of wheat in Sindh is due to the negligence of the provincial government, not the federal government.
Addressing a press conference in Sialkot on Sunday, Awan said: “After the Sindh government’s negligence in not buying flour in a timely manner, 0.4 million tonnes of wheat were given to the province from the federal government’s strategic reserves on the directions of the prime minister.”
“From the total wheat allocated, the Sindh government has only taken 0.1 million tonnes of wheat. This goes to show that the shortage of wheat in Sindh, and the subsequent increase in the price of the commodity, is due to an issue in the supply.
“The Sindh government has failed to ensure that the wheat is supplied to mills in the province. Due to this, flour mills are not working at full capacity and there has been a sharp increase in flour prices.”
She urged the Sindh government to expedite the supply chain and provide flour to the mills so that prices can be reduced.
She explained that the “mafia”, angered by the government’s crackdown on real estate, has now taken to the markets to turn their ill-gotten gains into profit by buying and hoarding essential commodities.
“They are using their ‘black money’ to buy flour, lentils, rice and other essentials from the market and creating a shortage so that they are able to sell these items at exorbitant rates.”
Asked when exactly the people of Pakistan will finally be given relief, Awan said: “You have to see who is responsible for the hike in prices. Is it a government which has been in power for only 15 months? Is this the government which was responsible for the devaluation of the rupee?”
“During the past 15 months, we have tried our best to prevent the economy from sinking under.”
Listing the initiatives taken by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) government to facilitate the underprivileged segments of society, Awan said that the reforms taken by the ruling party were difficult decisions but a necessary evil.
“Leaders are able to make unpopular decisions as they are making them for the country and not for the sake of political gains,” she concluded.
PTI reps slam Sindh govt
Meanwhile, at a press conference in Karachi, PTI Sindh President Haleem Adil Sheikh said the shortage of wheat and the hike in prices have to be controlled by the Sindh government and their officials.
“There should be an inquiry. Bilawal sahib either you or one of your people need to give us answer as to how the provincial food department is Rs90 billion in debt.
“Secondly, please tell us where 0.4 million tonnes of wheat, from a total of 0.8 million tonnes, have gone?”
He maintained that in light of the situation, the federal government is in the process of sending 10,000 tonnes of wheat to Karachi and Hyderabad through NLC [National Logistics Cell].”
He added that currently, there are at least one million tonnes of wheat in the province, including the province’s own reserves, the wheat given by the federal government and the wheat brought in through duty-free imports.
“Now it is the Sindh government’s responsibility to ensure supply to the mills and to reduce flour prices,” he said.
“The blame for this entire situation does not lie with the prime minister, it lies with the Sindh government’s incompetence and negligence.”
Brandishing copies of new reports highlighting the alleged corruption of the Sindh government, Leader of the Opposition in Sindh Assembly Firdous Shamim Naqvi said that it is painfully clear who is the responsible party in the issue.
“Why is flour being sold for Rs80 across Sindh? Each MNA owns one or two mills. They are all partners [in crime].”
He added that the Sindh government should take steps on an emergency basis to reduce the price of flour to Rs40 within three days.
Sindh CM’s response
On the other hand, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said on Sunday that the wheat shortage in the province will be brought under control by Tuesday or Wednesday.
In a statement, the CM said: “The Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) have given 0.3 million tonnes of wheat to Sindh which will be brought in from Punjab and Balochistan.”
He added that the delay in transporting the wheat had been caused by the transporters’ strike.
“At least 70,000 bags of wheat have reached Karachi today. By tomorrow, an additional 50,000 bags will also be delivered.”