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IHC Bars Government From Acting on Sugar Inquiry Report for 10 Days

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo. Farooq Naeem—AFP

Petition filed by Sugar Mills Association claims legal formalities were not fulfilled during inquiry commission’s investigations

The Islamabad High Court on Thursday barred the federal government from taking any action on the findings of the sugar inquiry commission report, adding that this ruling would remain in place for 10 days.

The ruling, issued by Chief Justice Athar Minallah, said that in the interim sugar should be sold for Rs. 70/kg to ensure maximum benefit for consumers.

Hearing the petition filed against the sugar inquiry commission report by sugar mill owners, including Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Jahangir Tareen, Justice Minallah questioned what the report had said about rising sugar prices.

One of the counsels for sugar mill owners, Makhdoom Ali Khan, claimed the 324-page report had provided several reasons for the price hike, while another, Salman Akram Raja, claimed it had not separated the use of sugar for public and commercial purposes in its investigation.

“If the commission did not say anything regarding the availability of sugar for the public, then what did it say?” asked the judge in response, adding, “sugar is a necessity for a common man. The government should take measures in this regard.”

The judge noted the price for sugar two years ago had been Rs. 53/kg, which had increased to Rs. 85/kg. Announcing his decision to fix the price at Rs. 75/kg for the next 10 days, he asked the federal government if it had any objections to the court’s decision. The additional attorney general representing the federation replied by saying that the federal government would not oppose the order.

“A matter of public interest is being brought forward in this matter. The commission never addressed the reasons for which it was formed,” ruled Justice Minallah.

The court then issued notices to the federal government, Special Assistant to Prime Minister Shahzad Akbar and FIA Director General Wajid Zia, as well as the interior secretary and members of the inquiry commission.

Earlier, the sugar mills owners had alleged that a media trial was being conducted against them through government officials. They also claimed the commission had violated the terms of references that were framed for it.

Filed by the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association and 17 other mill owners, the petition had challenged the report by the Sugar Inquiry Commission in the Islamabad High Court on Wednesday, alleging that legal formalities were not fulfilled during the investigations conducted by the commission.

The commission, in its report, has accused the sugar mill owners of earning illegal profits amounting to billions of rupees through unjustified price hikes, benami transactions, tax evasion, suspicious sugar export deals, illegal power production, misuse of subsidy and purchasing sugarcane off the books.

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