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Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Sugar Fiasco

Posted by: Jarri Mirza
Guest blog by: Humza Ikram

The recent sugar fiasco shows the volatile civil administrative structure of our society. In terms of western capitalist economist point of view it’s a result of non-documented trade which exists in our trade culture and lack decision making in real time environment. But the even worse part of the story is our reaction to the problem.

A very bad trend has emerged in the society where whenever a problem occur in the country suddenly everyone becomes a Prophet and the television anchors becomes the chosen one who gets the revelation from God. And then race starts every anchors tries to prove his revelation is real and pure and other tries to prove his God is real and he doubts the others God’s actual existence. This happened in the series of event his happened in recent history.

Right from the Lal Masjid episode these TV anchors tried to outdo the others. And one anchor (Kamran Khan) did the unimaginable he tried to offer mediation between the cleric and government official. And thank to him we saw 24/7 reality television like no where in world. Same pattern can be observed in the event followed that like Lawyers movement, Brigader Imitiaz episode, High treason case against musharaf, minus one formula and even the administrative issues like Petrol development levy (PDL) issue and the recent sugar crises.

When some liberal writers and commentator used to advise them not to glorify Taliban; they termed them as a western agent like in the case of Prof. Pervez HoodBhoy and social commentator Nadeem Farooq Paracha. And I remember when BB raised her voice against lal masjid activities and showed her concern we saw round the clock television analyzes why BB is raising her voice from London on these innocent Muslim missionaries.

From these patterns you can conclude one thing and to describe that I want to Quote Colin Powell famous telephone call to Musharaf “either you are with us or against”. Same goes for these television anchors. These television anchors are authority on law, business, investment, security, defense, diplomacy you name it they know everything and trust me they do their home very well you can which can be seen in recent case of national embarrassment because of Talat Hussain’s stupid arguments with Hilary because of his incorrect stats . Thank God Zaid Hamid was not in the panel.

The even worse phenomena which is developing is the superior courts are also following the act of the media and respected judges are trying to become like chief economist of the country that can be seen with carbon surcharge case which was part of this budget and which also the only few unanimous budgets of our history like the year 2008-09. Which was later challenged by PML_N in the Supreme Court on the second thought after they voted for it the parliament days before that after they were humiliated by TV anchors of showing impotency while passing the budget? And Supreme Court judges acted like the chief economist of country.

Let us analyze the recent sugar crisis and the role of media, government and judiciary.

WEEK 1: TCP delayed the decision to import sugar to benefit some key politician.
Stance of media and which was later adopted by Punjab government: it’s the negligence of federal government what can we do.

WEEK 2: key politician are hoarding sugar. Punjab government responded quickly and started series of operation on mills and distributors .they received acclaimed from all over Pakistan and media teams even started to count the quantity of sugar collected by Punjab Government each day and one poor lady TV anchor even said in one of her program if Punjab government can confiscate four months of required sugar for Pakistan in a week whether we actually required to import sugar. Later news reports suggest PML-N MPA’s were storing sugar at the places and report of Sheikh Mumtaz Hashmi and his brother in law involved in hoarding 600 bags of sugar, story become instant hit at youtube and social networking sites like Facebook.

WEEK 3: Peshawar and Lahore High courts took suo mou moto action against hoarding.

WEEK 4: week four ended with all kinds of speculation what could be the court judgment.

WEEK 5: finally the wait was over the courts announced there decision.

Client features of court decision
• NWFP government should look into smugglings of sugar to Afghanistan. (this remarks actually negates the LHC remarks if Punjab government is failed to stop inter-provincial smuggling of sugar how could NWFP could stop smuggling of sugar to Afghanistan where price is huge as compare to Punjab TO NWFP and where NWFP does not have control over Tribal Areas since there is no provincial police.

• There was no actual shortage of sugar.
• LHC CJ khawaja sharif suggested to bring back nationalization of sugar mills if sugar mills , not actually confronting his argument but I want to remind him he was previously Attorney general of Zia in Punjab and his previous boss and mentor Zia use to say “Socialism is haram”.

• Most astonishing was the LHC out did the PHC they also calculated the price ex mill price of the sugar.

WEEK 6: Week six provide to be the contradiction of week 1 now all the brilliant TV commentators were convinced that there was no sugar shortage in the country and funny part is if they are now convinced that there is no sugar shortage why the media brigade humiliated Watoo?

WEEK 7: Sugar mill association went to Supreme Court because they felt court didn’t listen to them and announced the decision in haste.

Current situation sugar have reached from 47 to 100 at some please since the courts intervention which halted the normal market mechanism and actually give provided the environment for the opportunist for hoarding and to earn quick buck .and the million dollar question is where is all the sugar which Punjab government confiscated.

WEEK 9: from late decision of importing sugar to no sugar shortages we have reached the debate of good governance mixed with kerry lugar bill, NRO and other legislative issue to finally stage which can be described in article of Shaheen Shebai “have counted already started ?”To suggest Asif Ali Zardari’s days at presidency are over.”

In my opinion media did not bother to address the real problem they are actually running a campaign to show governments inability to run the state affairs. My suggestion we should once and for all have to decide whether we will remain hostage to their 24/7 campaign or try to understand things objectively.


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humza ikram said...

Najam sethi editorial on 11th november 2009 about sugar crises.
Sugar disappears again

Amidst the reports that sugar has disappeared from most parts of Punjab, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif announced in Rawalpindi that the government had adopted a strategy to supply sugar to consumers at Rs. 40 per kilogramme, in accordance with the verdict of the Lahore High Court and subsequent reaffirmation thereof by the Supreme Court. Elaborating upon the envisaged strategy, the provincial Food Minister, Malik Nadeem Kamran stated that the daily supply of sugar to markets would be increased from 1,800 metric tonnes to 4,000 metric tonnes. Further, the government had decided that the Inspector General Police and home secretary would personally monitor the action against hoarders of sugar. In a separate development, 200,000 metric tonnes of sugar imported by the Trading Corporation of Pakistan had reached Karachi while tenders for the import of another 500,000 metric tonnes of raw sugar and 500,000 metric tonnes of white sugar had been issued. Alarmingly, the crushing season is about to begin by the end of the week. Thus, the so-called sugar crisis that began in the third week of August (on the eve of the month of Ramadan) continues to smoulder.

It needs to be said that despite the fact that the government has bowed to the verdict of the court, given the fragility of the current institutional equation, questions vis-à-vis the respective jurisdictions of the executive and the judiciary in matters of policy persist. Beyond that, there are further questions as to the effectiveness of the coercive powers of the state in a free market economy paradigm.

Traditionally, the executive is supposed to formulate and implement policies, in economic as well as other domains. The tendency to orchestrate public policies through judicial fiat has not garnered favourable results anywhere. While the scramble between two economic models was still alive, the “wage and freeze policy” of Richard Nixon backfired in the USA. More recently, the growing tendency of judicial activism in India had to be addressed at the highest level and needless to say, the elected leadership was able to stamp its authority. In Pakistan, the general mood reflects a deficit of trust between the masses and the leadership. The recent judicial crisis, so to speak, has furnished an added edge to the angst seething for altogether different reasons. While our judiciary may feel reassured in exercising a rather strict interpretation of its authority because of the popular assent it enjoys, the economy has its own laws with a certain dispassionate inevitability.

An interesting question pertains to the selection of sugar (by no means an essential commodity like wheat) as the test case to provide relief to the public. It is pertinent to recall that sugar carries a déjà vu connotation in destabilising governments in Pakistan. As of now, the government is cornered and has few options to wiggle out of the hole it finds itself in. However, the assorted conglomeration of stakeholders, namely, millers, stockists and retailers, may actually wrap up their businesses, thereby putting the banks under severe stress who have extended heavy loans to the sugar industry. The other option is to subsidize sugar as in the recent past and squander our precious foreign exchange reserves. Populist rhetoric apart, this is essentially an economic question and the economy brooks no free lunch, or dessert in this case. *

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