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Sugar as a “reshuffle tool” in the Federal Cabinet of Pakistan by Dr. Natalia Zamaraeva

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Dr. Natalia Zamaraeva

A lot has been written and talked about raising sugar prices in Pakistan, and convincing arguments have been made explaining the reasons for the increase in prices for this product. Public opinion was divided as always.

But on April 6, 2020 Prime Minister Imran Khan announced a reshuffle in the federal cabinet of ministers. The renewal of the composition is an emergency measure.

The cabinet reshuffle came just two days after the Federal Investigation Agency released reports on the sugar crisis.

Several members of the ruling party have been identified as the main beneficiaries of sugar price increases.

The change in the composition of the cabinet of ministers is not the first since the ruling PTI party came to power in August 2018 after the   results of the general election campaign. For the first time the composition was changed in April 2019.  That time Imran Khan focused on strengthening the Ministry of Interior.

Corruption, corruption schemes can be found in many countries. But the so-called “sugar dossier” and  quick respond by FIA in Pakistan raised many questions, including strengthening democratic institutions, state control over the production and marketing of local products, the fight against corruption, and the overall social renewal of society.

The fighting organized crime including “corruption, cybercrime, economic crime, immigration-related crimes, money laundering were the main points of PTI general election program 2018.

The consistent implementation of this program is possible thanks to the further strengthening of such a state institution as the National Accountability Bureau.   In September 2019, the NAB returned 71 billion rupees to the Treasury.

The next institution, which has also been strengthened, is the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). At the end of November 2019, Prime Minister Imran Khan appointed Wajid Zia as the Director General of the Federal Investigation Agency.   At the same time, Inquiry Committees under the chairmanship of DG FIA Wajid Zia was established.

Prime minister Imran Khan set the task to analyze the proper reasons of the price increasing and the sugar and flour crises.

According to the preliminary findings of the FIA Committee Report sent to Prime Minister Imran Khan on April 25, 2020 “… in the past few years, sugar production has significantly exceeded local consumption ..”,       Sugar production in 2016–2017 and 2017–2018 exceeded the estimated domestic consumption of the country, therefore sugar is exported from Pakistan. Pakistan’s estimated domestic consumption is about 5.2 million metric tons (MMT) per year. In 2016-2017 in Pakistan, its record production was recorded in the amount of 7.08 million tons, and in 2017-2018. – 6.63 million tons. Thus, ordinary people ask questions about the illegal increase in prices for sugar and flour.

The society in divided as usual.  Many things -the latest reshuffle in the corridors of power as nothing more than a factional struggle within the ruling party.

However, attention is drawn to the systematic nature of the ruling administration in matters of increasing transparency or ramped-up accountability.

 

The writer is professor at Institute of Oriental Studies Russian Science Academy

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