Balochistan cabinet’s decision to procure wheat illegal: BHC

Ameenullah Fitrat
Saturday, Jun 22, 2024

QUETTA: The Balochistan High Court (BHC), announcing reserved verdict in wheat procurement case, declared Friday Balochistan cabinet’s decision regarding wheat procurement illegal.

The decision states decision of cabinet to purchase wheat does not meet the standards of rationality, non-discrimination and prudent financial management.

The two-member bench which gave the verdict consisted Chief Justice Muhammad Hashim Khan Kakar and Justice Shaukat Ali Rakhshani. The constitutional petitions were filed against the cabinet’s decision to allocate Rs500 million for purchase of wheat at subsidised rates from Naseerabad Division.

According to the verdict, the Director General (DG) of Food Department has indicated 815,000 sacks of wheat are already available. Additional procurement without adequate storage capacity could lead to spoilage of wheat.

The court’s decision noted if there is no capacity to store wheat in warehouses, why is the government purchasing an additional 500,000 sacks? Moreover, if prices are lower in the open market, why is the government buying wheat?

The court directed the Chief Secretary to divert the said amount towards repayment of bank loans and establishment of technical centre in Naseerabad Division, town planning and drinking water supply as suggested by CM Sarfraz Bugti in response to a question during the hearing.

The verdict states food department has failed miserably in achieving its objectives. The federal government has established Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation Limited (PASSCO) for the purpose of maintaining strategic food reserves in the province in case of any calamity, famine etc. The provincial food department is nothing but duplication, which is putting more burden on weak economy of the province, the verdict says.

The judges wrote in their judgment keeping in mind weak financial situation of the province, there is a need to close down loss-making departments and reduce the expenditure of government. The court directed a high-level committee be constituted for recommendations regarding winding up of departments which have become a liability.