Thursday, December 27, 2007

Honour among thieves, while starving people for profit

Ministry declines to share names with other departments

by ARIF RANA (Courtesy The Business Recorder)

Islamabad: The Ministry of Food and Agriculture is not willing to share the list comprising the names of wheat hoarders with other ministries, thus undermining the government efforts aimed at taking the hoarder mafia to task. According to well-placed official sources, the denial by Ministry of Food to share the names of alleged hoarders with other government departments is said to protect some leading lights of major political party, whose mills reportedly have huge storage facility in Punjab.

Sources told Business Recorder that Ministry of Finance (MoF) and Planning Commission (PC) had approached the Ministry of Food and Agriculture for the list of the mills involved in massive hoarding of wheat. They said the ministry of Food and Agriculture shrugged off the pleas of MoF and PC. They said both the MoF and Planning Commission repeatedly asked for the name of hoarders but each time their requests were turned down by the ministry. Sources said secretary MoF, Ziaur Rehman, read out a few names from the list of the alleged hoarders during a meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the federal cabinet in October and then suddenly closed his folder, saying the details would be provided to the concerned departments after the meeting, but it never happened.

Sources said the Ministry of Food and Agriculture is protecting some senior leaders of a major political party who have huge storage facilities in Punjab. Some very influential politicians from NWFP were also involved in export of atta to Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics (CARs) for years and they make billions from their 'business' every year. The atta businessmen-cum-political leaders are so powerful that they can easily manage atta smuggling into Afghanistan and other CARs as much as they want. An atta businessman told Business Recorder that a difference of Rs 500 per 40kg atta in Afghanistan is a great attraction for powerful Pakistani mafia. He asserted the mafia is making huge money through this illegal business.

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