LAHORE -  Pakistan Cotton Grinners Association Tuesday moved the Lahore High Court against functioning of sugar mills in southern Punjab. The association presented government’s data in the court claiming that sugar mills badly damaged the cotton belt.

A division bench of LHC headed by Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah was hearing the case.

The sugar mills, said to be owned by Sharif family, are already facing contempt notices for continuing crushing process in violation of court’s order. Earlier, the court had already given its judgment on relocating and shifting of sugar mills in southern Punjab as well as on their functioning.

Advocate Haider Zaman Qureshi, who appeared before a division bench on behalf of the association, exploded arguments of the opponents by presenting official data which showed that establishment of sugar mills had replaced cotton and wheat and had created huge loss to the national interest.

The counsel who is also central finance secretary of the PPP argued that the government did not do any research and development and made no investment in southern Punjab where sugar mills were already over burdened with sugarcanes.

The farmers were not being paid who were running from pillar to post for their payments, he said. He said the sugar mills should be permanently be banned in the cotton areas.

At this, Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah asked the counsel to argue if these mills were causing any damage.

On it, Qureshi said that cultivation of sugar mills in southern Punjab damaged the land and water level and also caused financial loss to the farmers.

According to official data of the Punjab government, water level went low in eleven districts including Rahim Yar Khan, Bahawalnagar, Bahawalpur, Muzzafargarh, Okara, Pakpattan, Khanewal, Layyah, Rajanpur and Sahiwal. In three districts including Muzzafargarh, Layyah and Rajanpur, the water level was up but gradually was going down and down due to sugarcane crop. 

In April 2011, Qureshi argued, a technical committee was formed comprising Secretary Agriculture, Secretary Industry, Secretary Food and two technical experts and a representative from PSMA. He said the technical committee in its findings held that “Sugar industry which mainly based on sugarcane has expanded well in Punjab with the outcome that existing 45 sugar mills are already operating under capacity. Since area under sugarcane already suffers from water stress. Therefore, any further addition would amount to wastage of capital and other resources.”

After hearing his arguments, the bench sought arguments of the Punjab government’s lawyer and others and adjourned proceedings until May 8.