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Centre, Sindh in war of words over sugar crisis

KARACHI:

A war of words between the Centre and the Sindh government on the sugar price hike continued, as both sides accused each other of the sugar crisis that saw the retail price of the sweetener reaching Rs160 per kilo in different parts of the country.
The sugar price, which was Rs100 per kilogramme a month ago, spiked to a record-high level in the wake of an “artificial shortage” allegedly created by sugar mill owners and traders. However, the prices remained in the range of Rs140-145 in Karachi, according to traders.
The federal government, which is already facing strong criticism from the opposition over the increase in the prices of oil products, blamed the Sindh government for the sugar crisis. Several federal ministers have lambasted mill owners for creating an artificial sugar crisis to exploit the common man.
However, Sindh Information Minister Saeed Ghani hit back at the Centre’s attacks and placed the blame on the “inefficient government”. The provincial minister said that not only sugar, but the country also faced wheat and gas crises.
On Friday, Prime Minister Imran, while addressing a ceremony in Attock, said that sugar price rose because the Sindh government closed down three sugar mills. He also said that there was hoarding of the commodity in Punjab.
Also on Friday, Information Minister Fawad Chuadhry, while addressing a news conference in Islamabad, accused Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and the Sharif family of the sugar price hike, saying that most of the sugar mills in Sindh and Punjab belonged to them.
Ghani told reporters in Karachi that sugar mills in Sindh did not belong to Zardari but to the friends of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and its allies. He added that it was the PTI government which stood on the shoulders of “sugar, wheat, petrol, dollar and medicine thieves”.
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“It is alleged that the sugar mills in Sindh belong to Asif Ali Zardari, so I am making it clear that not a single sugar mill in Sindh belongs to Asif Ali Zardari,” he said. “However, many sugar mills belong to the PTI and its allies,” he alleged.
“[The] incompetent federal ministers are trying their best to hold the Sindh government responsible for the sugar, wheat and even gas crises but they have no knowledge of the facts.” He also rejected claims that the price rose because of delay in the start of the new sugarcane crushing season.
“The federal ministers are blaming the Sindh government and saying that the crisis occurred because the crushing has not started here. So tell me, has it started in Punjab, which produces way more than Sindh,” he added.
Meanwhile, Federal Finance Ministry spokesperson Muzammil Aslam told reporters in Karachi that crushing season in Punjab would start from November 15. Aslam added that the Sindh government was neither opening the mills, nor was it seeking help from the federal government.
Aslam also told reporters that a ship carrying thousands of tons of sugar would reach the Karachi port, after which the price would come down. The spokesperson added that action was being taken against the sugar mafia in Punjab.
Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, while chairing a meeting in Lahore, ordered that all possible administrative measures would be taken to ensure the sale of sugar at a fixed price. He added that indiscriminate action against hoarders and profiteers would continue.
(WITH INPUT FROM AGENCIES)

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