Disgruntled farmers block Multan Road, Motorway demanding release of funds
LAHORE: Three sugar mills owned by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his relatives have been blamed for the farmers’ protest at Thokar Niaz Baig against the Lahore High Court verdict.
Addressing a press conference at Lahore Press Club on Tuesday, Khalid Khokhar, chairman of splinter group of Pakistan Kissan Ittehad, said that the managements of three sugar mills Ittefaq Sugar Mills, Haseeb Waqas Sugar Mills and Chaudhry Sugar Mills — all owned by members of the Sharif family —have orchestrated the farmers’ protest against the orders of the Lahore High Court (LHC) which declared relocation of mills to the South Punjab as illegal.
“Chaudhry Anwar, the self-proclaimed chairman of Pakistan Kissan Ittehad has taken huge bribe from the Sharif brothers and has lured the poor farmers for protests. The farmers have nothing to do with these protests,” he alleged.
Khalid further said that Ittefaq Sugar Mills, Haseeb Waqas Sugar Mills and Chaudhry Sugar Mills are defaulters of farmers in their respective districts and have not paid cash to farmers for many years. “The sugars mills of the Sharif brothers have stopped the crushing season after the LHC order; hence the farmers have staged protest against the court orders.”
He referred to an advertisement published in a local daily of Multan in which Chaudhry Anwar incited farmers to stage a sit-in on October 16 outside Punjab Assembly against sugar mills of PTI leader Jehangir Khan Tareen. “The advertisement given in a local newspaper shows that Chaudhry Anwar is a political person who on the behest of the Sharif brothers is inciting farmers against PTI leaders. There is no doubt about it. ” He alleged that famers being invited in the protests are innocent and their demands are genuine but they are just being used by Chaudhry Anwar.
Khalid further said that the Sharif brothers should move the Supreme Court of Pakistan against the LHC orders and should not exploit the innocent farmers.
Ittefaq Sugar Mills are located in Bahawalpur, Haseeb Waqas Sugar Mills in Muzaffargarh and Chaudhry Sugar Mills in Rahim Yar Khan. They were originally set up in Gojra, Pakpattan and Nankana Sahib.
The Lahore High Court had ordered immediate sealing of Haseeb Waqas and Chaudhry Sugar Mills for shifting the mills to new locations in violation of stay orders issued by the court.
On September 11, LHC division bench comprising Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Shujaat Ali Khan ruled: “It is declared that shifting/re-location of the three sugar mills, from Central Punjab to South of Punjab is a violation of the Punjab Industries (control on establishment and enlargement) the Ordinance 1963, as well as, the ban notification, hence the establishment of the three sugar mills is declared illegal and without lawful authority.”
The court had ordered the mills to dismantle and remove their plant and machinery within three months and move them.
JDW Sugar Mills owned by Jahangir Tareen had agitated the matter against relocation of mills owned by the Sharifs. Tareen had argued that the mills had been moved in violation of a ban imposed by the government.
On the other hand, hundreds of farmers belonging to Chaudhry Anwar group of the Pakistan Kissan Ittehad have staged a sit-in on second day on Multan Road at Thokar Niaz Baig. The angry protestors have threatened to besiege the Punjab assembly if their demands are not met.
They are demanding immediate release of their pending amounts of Rs 30 billion from sugar mills owners. They are also demanding subsidy on different agriculture items.
Talking to the media, Chaudhry Anwar said their negotiations with Punjab law Minister Rana Sana Ullah have failed since he is not a reliable person.
“We will not hold talks with anyone except Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif. We will encircle the Punjab Assembly if our demands are not met,” he said.
Police have placed containers at the Multan Road near Thokar Niaz Baig to stop farmers from entering the city, bringing traffic to a standstill in the area.
After receiving assurance from concerned authorities of a meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, PKI has decided to postpone its sit-in till 11:00 am today.