LAHORE                 -               In a surprise move, Punjab Minister for Food Samiullah Chaudhary on Monday “voluntarily” resigned from his position even though his name was not mentioned in the FIA inquiry report on wheat and sugar crisis released by the federal government the other day. 

Even more intriguing is the fact that the news of his resignation was officially announced by chief minister’s office. An official handout said that Samiullah Chaudhry tendered his resignation after meeting with Chief Minister Punjab Sardar Usman Buzdar.

Following the news of Food Minister’s resignation, PPP’s Parliamentary leader in Punjab Assembly Syed Hasan Murtaza was quick to point out that Mr Chaudhry had been made a scapegoat to save the actual culprits involved in the whole affair. The PPP leader blamed the Prime minister and his coterie for the surge of wheat and sugar prices.

Also, besides accepting Mr Chaudhary’s resignation, the Chief Minister also accepted the request of Nasim Sadiq to relieve him from the post of Commissioner DG Khan. Nasim was serving as Secretary Food at the time when Punjab government made key decision to give subsidy on sugar to the sugar mills. Likewise, former Director Food Zafar Iqbal had also been relieved of his duties and made OSD. 

The handout quoted Samiullah Chaudhary as saying that he was resigning to prove his innocence and that he was ready to sacrifice such ministerial posts to fulfill the agenda of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“Baseless allegations were being leveled with regard to failure in introducing departmental reforms for some time now and I am ready to offer myself for accountability at any forum. I do not consider myself eligible for any post unless proved not guilty”, Samiullah asserted in his resignation letter sent to the chief minister.

In a related development, Punjab Finance Minister, Hashim Jawan Bakht in a statement issued to the press said that Finance Department had always maintained its impartiality and even on the subject of the sugar subsidy, the views of his department were a matter of public record.

He further stated that Finance Department had categorically maintained in the cabinet meeting that it viewed the subsidies as economic distortions.

The statement issued by the finance minister read out as follows:

 "I would like to clarify my role as Finance Minister in the matter related to the PKR 3 billion subsidy to Sugar Sector on Export. Given any potential conflict of interest, I have always maintained a distance from anything related to the sugar sector. This is a well-known fact which the government is aware of. The Minutes of the cabinet meeting held on Dec 29, 2018 in which this agenda was tabled are documented, and on this item, it is stated by Finance Department that subsidies were considered economic distortions and should not be encouraged. This is reflective of the independent and impartial thinking which is clear from any influence or self-interest. Matters are discussed at length in the Cabinet and the views of all concerned (in this case the initiating department, Food Department) were presented upon which the Cabinet decided on the matter.