Information minister says govt will challenge the ECP decision to suspend the package
Incensed at the suspension of the agriculture relief package, farmers threatened on Friday to disrupt the upcoming local government elections until the government restores the package and fulfills its promise on a fertiliser subsidy.
“We will not allow the local government elections to take place,” Pakistan Kisaan Ittehad (PKI) president Khalid Mehmood Khokhar told a news conference in Islamabad. “The country will suffer if the government does not pay attention to the agriculture sector.”
The farmer’s alliance said it has given the government a week to implement the package failing which it would block every road in Punjab. “We do not want to protest, but the government has left us with no other choice.”
The PKI president urged the government to announce an ‘agriculture emergency’ in the country for two years. The alliance has demanded abolition of general sales tax and tax on agricultural inputs, higher support price for major corps, implementation of the Rs20 billion subsidy for fertiliser as announced in the budget.
The Kissan package was suspended by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on the premise that packages cannot be announced once the schedule for elections is released.
Khokhar criticised the ECP for suspending the package noting how the poll body had failed to consult farmers before taking a decision on implementing programmes largely approved by the National Assembly.
He criticised the government for spending thousands on advertisements, but had failed to release even a part of the Rs341 billion package. “A single commitment [on agriculture sector] has not been honoured.”
The PKI president warned that farmers were in no position to cultivate the next crop under thr current circumstances and confusion about subsidy on fertiliser would further exacerbate the situation.
Referring to comments of Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, Khokhar urged politicians to set aside their differences for the sake of farmers. “We request all [political] leaders to have some mercy and set aside your differences to help famers.”
Rashid blames Imran for forcing ECP to suspend the package
Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid has accused Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan of holding the poll body on ‘gunpoint’ to force it into suspending the package.
“After getting a decision of his choice, Imran Khan has put the pistol back in its holster to bring it out after October 11,” Rashid told media in Islamabad.
He added that the package was for small farmers owning less than 12.5 acres of land without being constituency or province specific, not for big landlords.
He added that the government was contemplating challenging the ECP’s decision before the appropriate forum, in addition to raising the matter in the legislative assemblies. “The lawyers will decide about the forum whether it should be [challenged in] the Supreme Court or the High Court.”
Rashid said the government had been providing subsidy worth billions of rupees on petroleum and energy products, “will all these be challenged by the ECP in future too?”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 3rd, 2015.