Pakistan: Farmers reject suspension in wheat scandal, demand genuine accountability

World Friday 24/May/2024 09:42 AM
Pakistan: Farmers reject suspension in wheat scandal, demand genuine accountability

Lahore : Farmers' discontent over the wheat import scandal has escalated with the recent suspension of four officers implicated in the affair, dismissing it as a mere token gesture aimed at shielding the actual wrongdoers, Dawn reported.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's decision to suspend four officials--former National Food Security Secretary Muhammad Asif, ex-Director-General of Food Protection AD Abid, National Food Security Commissioner Waseem, and Director Suhail--on the recommendation of an inquiry committee has been met with scepticism.

Farooq Tariq, the general secretary of the Pakistan Kisan Rabita Committee (PKRC), expressed dissatisfaction, asserting, "The federal cabinet's decision to suspend four Food Security officers involved in the wheat scandal is insufficient. We believe that these officers are being made scapegoats to protect the real culprits," as reported by Dawn.

Tariq continued, alleging, "They are trying to cover up the scandal by punishing a few junior officers."

He further criticised the investigative process, highlighting the conflict of interest, "How can a federal secretary investigate his former boss?" He questioned the impartiality of the inquiry committee chaired by Kamran Ali Afzal, who previously served as the secretary of caretaker Prime Minister Anwarul Haq's cabinet.

Amidst accusations of a cover-up, Tariq emphasised the economic ramifications, stating, "The wheat scandal has been covered up, and the real culprits who made this key economic decision are being protected." He pointed out the disproportionate gains made by certain entities, remarking, "60 companies have made huge money through the wheat scandal, while most farmers are still unable to sell their wheat at government rates."

In a show of defiance, Tariq warned of impending protests, declaring, "If the government does not start wheat procurement and take action against the real culprits of the wheat scandal, the PKRC would invite farmers from across the country for protests in Lahore and Islamabad." He called for a transparent investigation led by farmers' representatives to identify the true perpetrators.

The PKRC's demands for accountability and transparency underscore the depth of farmer discontent, signalling a potentially tumultuous road ahead for the government in addressing the wheat scandal, Dawn reported.