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Wheat scandal: PM approves disciplinary action against 4 officers for Poor planning

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has given approval for disciplinary measures against officials responsible for inadequate planning and negligence.

As per sources, the government has opted to suspend four officials from the Ministry of National Food Security, with no recommendations issued against the caretaker setup or its key officials.

It’s noteworthy that PM Shehbaz established a probe committee, headed by Secretary Cabinet Division Kamran Ali Afzal, to investigate last year’s wheat import despite a “bumper crop,” resulting in surplus wheat stocks that have left the Balochistan and Punjab governments unable to procure crops from farmers.

Earlier this month, the premier instructed Afzal to ascertain accountability and inform those accountable for the scandal, directing the cabinet secretary to devise recommendations based on available records and documents.

The surplus stock has been attributed to the decision of the caretaker government, led by former caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, which permitted the import of 2,758,226 metric tonnes of wheat worth Rs225.783 billion until February 2024.

Former caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar disputes the narrative, asserting that only 3.4 million metric tonnes of wheat were imported, whereas the shortage amounted to four million metric tonnes.

According to sources, the Ministry of National Food Security informed Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s cabinet that 28.18 million tonnes of wheat were produced last year, prompting the caretaker government to decide on importing an additional 2.45 million tonnes.

In response, the government has approved disciplinary action against former federal secretary of national food security Muhammad Asif, as well as the suspension of officers including former director general plant protection AD Abid, Food Security Commissioner I Dr. Wasim, Director Sohail, and Punjab Director Food Security Imtiaz Gopang.

PM Shehbaz summons high-level meeting

Additionally, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has called for a high-level meeting today, with attendance expected from Food Security Minister Rana Tanveer, officials from the Pakistan Agricultural and Storage and Services Corporation and representatives from the food security department.

The meeting will provide a briefing to the premier regarding wheat procurement in alignment with the set procurement target.

Furthermore, discussions will encompass the challenges encountered by farmers and the measures taken thus far to mitigate them.

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