|Friday, September 25, 2009
SC refuses to suspend LHC verdict ;Rejects pleas against order ; NAB report on sugar crisis presented in court; SBP gave sugar mills loans worth Rs55 billion out of which Rs21bn still outstanding, apex court told
By Sohail Khan
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected pleas of the sugar mills associations to suspend the order of the Lahore High Court that had fixed the price of sugar at Rs40 per kilogram.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who heads the two-member bench of the apex court hearing identical petitions of the sugar mills associations against the LHC verdict, said the sugar price would remain Rs40 a kilogram.
The Pakistan Sugar Mills’ Association (PSMA), the Punjab Sugar Dealers’ Association (PSDA) and the federal and provincial governments had moved the Supreme Court against the September 3 verdict of the Lahore High Court (LHC) that had fixed retail price of sugar at Rs40 per kilogram.
They had prayed to the apex court to suspend the LHC verdict till the decision of the petitions. The Lahore High Court (LHC) on September 3, 2009 while taking suo motu notice of the sugar crisis in Punjab had fixed the retail price of sugar at Rs40 per kilogram.
In compliance with the court’s earlier direction, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Thursday presented a report prepared two years back on the sugar crisis. The report, prepared on February 17, 2006, stated that the bureau had carried out only preliminary investigation into the crisis but various quarters raised a lot of hue and cry giving the impression that NAB’s inquiry was contributing to further escalation of the sugar prices. This forced the NAB to close the inquiry, the report stated.
The report further stated the sugar industry in the country was predominantly owned by politicians, who despite being in government, acted contrary to the laws and ethics of business and held sugar stock which is tantamount to hoarding.
The report also contains a list of mills owned by politicians that hoarded thousands of metric tons of sugar during the 2006 crisis.It also states that there was a clear-cut position drawn by sugar mills owned by politicians and farmer associations while the government remained in a fix and lacked resolve to bridge the gap between the two stakeholders.
According to the NAB report of 2006, major ownership of the country’s sugar mills industry was in the hands of politicians who hoarded the commodity, which caused the sugar crisis.The report issued on February 17, 2006 also listed names of politicians who own sugar mills. They included Asif Ali Zardari (3 mills), the Sharif brothers (12 mills), Humayun Akhtar Khan, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Mian Azhar, Mian Altaf Salim, Jehangir Tarin, Haroon Akhtar, Anwar Cheema and Nasrullah Dreshak.
A report submitted by the State Bank before the apex court stated that during January 2009, the banks gave sugar mills loans worth Rs55 billion of which Rs21 billion are still to be paid by the mills.
The court adjourned the hearing till October 1, as other parties in the case including the federal and provincial governments, the Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP), the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) and the PSMA requested for more time to present reports that the Supreme Court had sought on the previous hearing of the case.
The chief justice also directed PSMA President Iskander Khan to present a copy of the letter he had written to Federal Minister for Food and Agriculture Nazar Muhammad Gondal on June 16, 2009.
Responding to an inquiry by the chief justice, Khan said he had written to the minister that they had sugar stock of two million metric tons. The chief justice reminded him that he had also written to the minister that the PSMA had sugar stock sufficient up to December 2009.
During the course of proceedings, the chief justice observed that the court had not barred anyone from crushing sugarcane.The Punjab government in its reply to the Supreme Court on fixing the sugar prices said the country is facing the crisis because the Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) failed to import the commodity in time.
It further stated that the sugar dealers sold 63 per cent of their stock in the first nine months while 37 per cent stock was hoarded for profiteering prior to the beginning of the crushing season. It said no formal inquiry was conducted on a report based on NAB investigation and the Supreme Court, taking suo motu action, dismissed the case on January 24, 2008.
PML-N rejects NAB report on sugar
How can the Sharifs be held responsible for the sugar crisis in 2006 when they were in exile: says Senator Pervaiz Rashid.
LAHORE: Senator Pervaiz Rashid has said the National Accountability Bureau report about involving the Sharif brothers in 2006-07 sugar crisis was to stop the return of PML-N leaders to Pakistan and a tactic to blackmail them.
Commenting on the NAB report published after three years, the senator said that it was an era of dictatorship when the PML-N had issued a schedule of the All Parties Conference, Charter of Democracy and return of Nawaz Sharif to the country.
According to a press release issued here on Thursday, he said that all these tactics were adopted to create hurdles in the return of the exiled politicians.
He said the report about the sugar crisis against the PML-N leaders was a part of the character assassination campaign launched by the dictator.
It was the period when former president Pervez Musharraf was feared of public reaction against him and was not ready to give permission to prominent opposition leaders to play their political role, he said.
‘How can the Sharifs be held responsible for the sugar crisis in 2006 when they were in exile’, he questioned and added that they were not even allowed to perform funeral rituals of their father by the dictator.
The senator said that Shahbaz Sharif was also not allowed to participate in the marriage ceremony of his daughter.
Mr Rashid said when Shahbaz Sharif came to Pakistan he was sent back to Saudi Arabia through another plane despite clear orders of the Supreme Court.
He said most of such cooked up reports, which were prepared only to please the higher authorities, were proved wrong in the court.
He said why the government at that time did not dare to publish the report about the sugar crisis if irregularities were identified in it.
The senator said the Sharif brothers had never been involved in hoarding or anti-people policies and the public support given to them in the last general election was a proof of the fact.