Pakistani PM Orders Probe into Massive Wheat Import Scandal

Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif orders an inquiry into a wheat import scandal, alleging a $1 billion loss to the national economy. The scandal involves unnecessary wheat imports despite a bumper crop, with an initial report revealing collusion between federal institutions and the flour mafia.

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Pakistani PM Orders Probe into Massive Wheat Import Scandal

Pakistani PM Orders Probe into Massive Wheat Import Scandal

Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has ordered an inquiry into a wheat import scandal that allegedly caused a staggering $1 billion loss to the national economy. The scandal involves the unnecessary import of over 3.5 million metric tons of wheat from September 2023 to March 2024, despite Pakistan producing a bumper crop last year. PM Sharif formed an inquiry committee headed by the Secretary Cabinet Division to investigate the matter.

Why this matters: This scandal has significant implications for Pakistan's economy, as it highlights corruption and mismanagement within the government, which can erode trust in institutions and hinder efforts to address the country's economic crisis. The investigation's findings could also have far-reaching consequences for those involved, potentially leading to accountability and reforms in the agricultural sector.

During a high-level review meeting, the premier questioned the Ministry of National Food Security about the decision to import such a large quantity of wheat. He expressed satisfaction over this year's bumper crop and stressed the need for timely wheat purchase and payment to farmers. Sources reveal that the Ministry of National Food Security allegedly colluded with the flour mafia and wheat importers, resulting in the substantial loss of foreign exchange.

The import has also inflicted a loss of Rs 300 billion to farmers and Rs 104 billion to the government exchequer. An initial report on the scandal has uncovered disturbing facts, suggesting that federal institutions are responsible for the unnecessary import of wheat, despite existing reserves of over 4 million metric tons in Punjab alone. The report found that wheat was imported at a cost of Rs 2600-2900 per maund and sold at a higher price of Rs 4700 per maund.

Import permission was granted for 1 million metric tons, but it was exceeded without limit. The report also revealed that federal institutions allowed private companies to import wheat without proper checks, and some officials from the Ministry of Finance failed to scrutinize the large-scale import. As of April 1, 2024, wheat stocks with PASSCO and provincial food departments stood at over 4.3 million metric tons, making private import unnecessary.

However, the private sector and flour millers imported wheat, causing PASSCO and provincial food departments to incur average incidental charges of Rs 950 per maund/40 kg, resulting in a total loss of Rs 104 billion to the government. In response to the scandal, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has taken swift action by suspending Secretary Food Security Muhammad Asif and appointing Muhammad Fakhar-e-Alam new secretary.

The complete report on the scandal is expected to be presented to the government within three days. The wheat import scandal has sparked concerns about the government's ability to steer Pakistan out of its economic crisis. The investigation's findings are likely to have significant implications for those involved and the country's economy as a whole. The probe continues, and the nation awaits the full extent of the scandal to be revealed and for those responsible to be held accountable.

The initial report has shed light on the alleged collusion between federal institutions, the flour mafia, and wheat importers. The full extent of the scandal is still unclear and who will be held accountable for the massive financial losses incurred by the government and farmers. As Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif takes decisive action, the people of Pakistan hope for a thorough and transparent investigation that will bring those accountable to justice and prevent such scandals from occurring in the future.

Key Takeaways

  • Pakistani PM orders inquiry into $1 billion wheat import scandal.
  • 3.5 million metric tons of wheat imported despite bumper crop in 2023.
  • Scandal allegedly caused Rs 300 billion loss to farmers and Rs 104 billion to government.
  • Inquiry committee formed to investigate Ministry of National Food Security's role.
  • PM suspends Secretary Food Security, appoints new secretary amid scandal.