ISLAMABAD - Former Prime Minister and a central leader of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Saturday said that the inquiry commission on sugar crisis should summon then Chairman of Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) and its members who allowed export of sugar leading to the increase in the price of the commodity locally.

“The only reason for increase in sugar price was approval by the ECC and the Cabinet to export it. Export (of sugar) continued and its prices went up,” he said while talking to reporters after his appearance before the inquiry commission at the headquarters of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

Accompanied by another PML-N leader Khurram Dastgir Khan, the former PM termed the sugar inquiry an open and shut case and said that that they appeared before the investigation team on the instruction of their own party. “We avoided talking politics before the commission,” he said.

The commission, headed by Director General FIA Wajid Zia, had invited the two PML-N leaders –Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and former Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan— to appear before it to provide information about the mismanagement leading to the sharp increase in the price of sugar last year.

Abbasi alleged that either the government was incompetent or corrupt, or both. He said that the ground reality suggested that the government, and ECC and the Cabinet are corrupt and incompetent.

“Today I apprised the inquiry commission about the facts which led to the price hike and we will submit our statement in writing on the up-coming appearance before it,” he said.

PML-N leader asked the commission to summon ECC chairman and the members and ask them why they allowed export of sugar, To a question, he said that subsidy of sugar was also allowed in the past during PML-N government but it was not to give a favour to anyone, rather, it was aimed at bridging losses due to price difference of the commodity in international and domestic markets.

“We gave subsidy when sugar prices in the country and international market were quite different,” he said adding that even then the price did not go up.

He said the incumbent government gave an opportunity to sugar mills owners to mint money through allowing the export of sugar.

Abbasi also accused National Accountability (NAB) of being a tool of political engineering and said that the bureau had opened a new investigation against President PML-N Shehbaz Sharif while it couldn’t find anything against him in previous investigations.

Meanwhile, the representatives of sugar mills association including its president and provincial heads also appeared before the commission and recorded their statements before it. They also faced questions of the investigators about export of sugar and the increase in prices of the sugar in local market. They were also questioned about benami transactions, tax evasions, and the role of middle men and unregistered agents in the export of sugar, said an official source in the FIA.

Last month, Abbasi had volunteered himself to appear before the commission to give “information about corruption and mismanagement” leading to the increase in sugar prices. The former prime minister had written a letter to Zia, the head of the commission, in this regard. The opposition party leader had said that he, along with former Minister of Commerce Khurram Dastgir Khan, intended to appear before the commission in the “interest of justice” to provide information to it about the “corruption and mismanagement.”