July 22, 2020


Pakistan's Sindh holds back on early wheat stock release


Pakistan's Sindh government will only release wheat stocks after a decision on the matter was made by the provincial cabinet, asserted government spokesperson Barrister Murtaza Wahab, The Express Tribune reported.


Wahab's statement came in response to the Centre pushing the province to finalise its wheat release policy at the earliest, seeking the premature release of its stocks before September, when the exercise usually commences each year.


Addressing a press conference, Wahab claimed that if the Sindh government gave into the federal government's demand of releasing wheat earlier than scheduled, it was likely that the stocks would be smuggled to Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), where the crop was being sold at a higher price.


"We suspect that the wheat released by Sindh will be hoarded in other provinces," he said, adding that wheat was usually released by the government between September and March.


The spokesperson attributed the rise in wheat prices in Punjab and K-P to the federal government's "faulty policies," and expressed fear that if the situation persisted, the 'wheat mafia' in the two provinces would become active.


Comparing wheat prices in Sindh with those of other provinces, he maintained that 100 kilogrammes was being sold for Rs4,700 in Karachi, while the same amount cost over Rs5,000 in Punjab and K-P.


Making further comparisons, he said that Sindh was the only province in the country that had achieved 98% of its wheat production target, with Punjab being able to produce 90% of its set target, K-P a meager 5% and even the Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Supplies Corporation lagging behind, achieving only 65% of its target.


He went on to accuse the federal government of deliberately creating an artificial wheat crisis in the country to back the 'mafia' and earn billions.


The spokesperson continued his criticism of the Centre on the electricity crisis in Karachi as well.


Wahab noted that load-shedding continued to plague Karachi despite assurances by Sindh Governor Imran Ismail and Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar that it would end soon. He also questioned the hike in electricity prices for K-Electric (KE) consumers, approved by the National Electrical Power Regulatory Authority.


He pointed out that two members in KE's board were a part of the federal government, which also held 23% of the power utility's shares, and accused the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of staging a "fake protest" against KE when it itself was behind the rise in electricity prices.


Wahab also maintained that Sindh was faring much better than other provinces in terms of tackling the coronavirus pandemic.


"Our strategy…resulted in fewer deaths," he claimed, adding that a higher number of COVID-19 cases was being reported in Sindh than in Punjab as the former had higher testing capacity.


Besides, he stated, 2,043 virus-related deaths were reported in Punjab against approximately 88,000 cases, while just 1,863 deaths were reported in Sindh against around 160,000 positive cases.


He also censured the centre for failing to fulfil its responsibility of fighting the locust swarms and for the increase in medicine and petroleum products' prices.


"The difference between the PTI and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is that they [the PTI] believe in making claims and we [the PPP] believe in practical execution," he went on.