PM orders suspension of four officers



The inquiry committee probing the wheat scandal has given a ‘clean chit’ to the interim government led by former premier Anwaarul Haq Kakar and held the Ministry of National Food Security responsible for it.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has ordered the suspension of four officers of the national food security ministry and formal action against its former secretary after the committee submitted its report to him, it emerged on Tuesday.

The wheat import scandal refers to a controversy, involving the import of a significant amount of wheat by the then caretaker government, despite the country having surplus wheat stocks.

It was reported that federal institutions were responsible for the unnecessary import of wheat. Despite Punjab’s existing reserves of 4.047 million metric tons, an additional 3.587 million metric tons were imported.

It was stated that the federal institutions had permitted private companies to import wheat without adequate scrutiny, and some officials from the finance ministry neglected to oversee the large-scale import.

This decision reportedly caused a loss of more than Rs300 billion to the national exchequer

According to sources, the officers whose suspension had been ordered included former Department of Plant Protection (DPP) director general Allah Ditta Abid; Food Security Commissioners Dr Syed Waseemul Hassan and Imtiaz Ali Gopang, as well as DPP Director Sohail.

The report recommended formal action against former national food security secretary Muhammad Asif.

However, the inquiry report surprisingly noted nothing about former national food security secretary Mahmood Ahmed, who initiated the wheat import process.

According to the sources, the officers responsible had been charged with “poor planning and negligence”.

The domestic wheat market crashed because of the import of the crop and the provincial departments faced difficulties.

The sources said Food Security Commissioner Gopang had showed irresponsibility and negligence at several stages during the import of the wheat.

The prime minister had formed the inquiry committee, headed by the Cabinet Division Secretary Kamran Ali Afzal, earlier this month, while chairing a meeting on the current status of wheat reserves in the country.

During the huddle, Shehbaz asked the national food security and research ministry about why wheat was imported last year despite the production of a bumper crop.

He observed that the country had produced a bumper crop of wheat this year as well. The decision to import wheat despite the production of a bumper crop had led to an excess of stock.

This had created difficulties for the Punjab and Balochistan governments to buy the crop from farmers. Last week, former premier Kakar dismissed the wheat import controversy as exaggerated, likening it to a minor issue blown out of proportion.

He questioned the nature of the so-called scandal, highlighting that wheat prices had been decreasing rather than escalating.

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