Opposition in the upper house of Pakistani parliament staged a walkout after the federal government failed to submit a key investigation agency’s report on the recent hike of food commodities, especially wheat flour and sugar. The Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani asked the government to place the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) report on sugar and flour crisis before the house after Leader of Opposition Raja Zafarul Haq said the report had been submitted to the government.
However, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Azam Swati told the house that he had written to the prime minister regarding the FIA report and was told that there were some points in the report that needed clarification. Swati said he would present the report at the next meeting. “We accept that mafias are at work and that these mafias minted billions of rupees by creating scarcity of wheat and sugar. However, we are not going to spare this mafia,” he said. The opposition members, however, raised objection to the move and staged a walkout. The Senate chairman later ordered the minister to present the report in the next sitting. The Senate later passed a resolution expressing concern over the wheat flour crisis and urging the government to take every possible measure to safeguard the people from the inflationary trend. The house also demanded that the government present the FIA inquiry report crisis in the Senate.
Flour crisis started in November 2019 and worsened around mid-January 2020, raising price of the staple food to Rs 70 per kg. As a result of wheat shortages, flour prices increased. Prices of wheat flour hovered around 50 US cents per kilogram, which adds up to nearly US$ 100 a month for the average family, this in a country where 29.5 per cent of the population (210 million) lives below the poverty line, set at 3,030 rupees (US$ 20). On the heels of the flour crisis, the rates of sugar also began creeping up.
Taking notice of the crisis, Prime Minister Imran Khan on January 23 ordered the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to launch an inquiry into causes of this price hike and fix responsibility for the shortage. The FIA on Feb 11 submitted its report to the PM.
According to opposition parties, the government has exported more flour than it should have. Between late 2018 and June 2019, at least 600,000 tonnes of wheat were exported. In July 2019, the government banned further exports, but another 48,000 tonnes were sent abroad until October 2019. For Khwaja Asif, a lawmaker with the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), some government officials have profited from the crisis.”An editorial published today in Dawn, Pakistan’s leading English language newspaper, blames government's inefficiency in management and the lack of coordination with wheat-growing regions.