Angry farmers in Pakistan protest against ‘wheat scam’ 
The Kissan Ittehad has announced a major protest on May 10

at 3:43 pm
Farmers in Pakistan are protesting against the wheat scandal

Islamabad, May 6: Thousands of farmers across Pakistan’s four provinces of Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh – have taken to the streets, protesting against the ongoing wheat import scheme by the government, which is being labelled as a “wheat scam”.

Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI) has announced a Multan-Lahore march on May 10 to give vent to their anger over the scam and concerns against the delay in official wheat procurement.

The wheat crisis has seen thousands of farmers protesting on the streets of several major cities such as Lahore, Rawalpindi, Hyderabad, Karachi, Multan, Peshawar, leading to massive government crackdown by the government authorities.

Farmers allege that the federal government has allowed import of poor quality wheat from abroad at exorbitant prices for the benefit of a few parties, and at the expense of local farmers.

The wheat import has caused a major dent in the national exchequer besides severely harming the daily income of many farmers as wheat prices have plummeted to an extreme low, going below the minimum support price of PKR 3,900 per 40 kg, according to media reports.

The scam is part of the 2023 government’s wheat import scheme under Caretaker Prime Minister Anwar-Ul-Haq Kakkar where his administration allowed import of foreign grains by various private parties with little regard for domestic production; and at massive prices.

The scheme ended up turning into a massive scam, as documents obtained by media agencies showed that amidst a downfall in international wheat prices, the previous administration granted permission to the private sector to import wheat worth PKR 330 billion or USD 1.18 billion from August 2023 to March 2024.

According to the data compiled by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), the import of wheat in the country stood a 3.44 million tonnes at an estimated cost of PKR 282.975 billion ($1.005 billion), during the July-March period of 2023-24 within the deadline of March 31, 2024.

This continued in April 2024, with the PBS finding out that the import of wheat had crossed four million tonnes, leading to great damage to the country’s treasury. This was at a time when Pakistan is already facing a massive economic crisis as the government spent over $1.05 billion for wheat import, amidst an already low foreign reserve.

The Opposition has argued that the administration continued doling out huge amounts of money to foreign companies for the benefit of a few private enterprises, corporations, and middlemen, all the while importing cheap quality grain. However, the Anwar-ul-Haq Kakkar has denied any involvement in the scam.

Announcing his full support to the farmers, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has met with several farmers and assured them that his government will take the strictest action and give them their fair due. While the PML-N has launched a probe into the matter, its investigations are lukewarm as it is reluctant to involve any of the central agencies like NAB or FIA in investigating the matter.

Punjab Assembly Opposition Leader Ahmed Khan Bhachar has called for the arrest of former interim PM Kakar over the wheat scandal, holding all individuals involved in the decision-making process accountable.

The PTI has also demanded the establishment of a judicial commission to thoroughly investigate the scandal.