ISLAMABAD -  Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf leader Jehangir Tareen and four other sugar mill owners have agreed to purchase sugarcane from the farmers, who were affected due to the closure of Sharif family’s sugar mills.

A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on Thursday heard the appeal of farmers against the Lahore High Court verdict that had declared the relocation of three sugar mills of the Sharif family to southern Punjab illegal, which led to their closure.

In September 2017, the LHC had declared the relocation of Sharif family mills — Chaudhry Sugar Mills, Ittifaq Sugar Mills, Haseeb Waqas Sugar Mills, and Abdullah Sugar Mills — illegal.

The Pakistan Kissan Ittehad had filed a Civil Petition for Leave to Appeal (CPLA) through Pakistan Bar Council Vice-Chairman Muhammad Ahsan Bhoon challenging the LHC verdict which had declared the relocation of three sugar mills owned by the Sharif family from central Punjab to southern Punjab illegal.

It pleaded for granting leave to the appeal and prayed for suspending the operation of the LHC verdict.

Aitzaz Ahsan, representing Tareen’s sugar mills Jamaluddin Wali, gave an undertaking that his client along with the other four owners of sugar mills, Hamza, Ashraf, RYK and Indus, will buy the harvested sugarcane from the growers at a rate fixed by the government. During the proceeding, the mill owners agreed to purchase the sugarcane from the affected farmers.

Bhoon, representing the farmers, however, questioned how they would purchase the sugarcane from all the farmers. The chief justice, however, said they will monitor and supervise the process, and if any complaint surfaced, they will take up it in the chamber and an appropriate order, if needed, will be passed.

The chief justice asked Tareen, who was present in the courtroom, being an elder of the locality, he should ensure that no farmer faced any loss.

In the meantime, a farmer came to the rostrum and said they will die if their harvested sugarcane was not purchased. “I know, where you were the other day,” said the chief justice and asked the farmer if he spoke the truth before Baba Rehmtay (Supreme Court), then everything will be okay.

The chief justice observed that they have provided relief to the growers and protected their rights hence they should avoid raising objections and should not become a mouthpiece of someone else. Later, the court adjourned the hearing until February 18.

The government of Punjab in 2006 through a notification banned the establishment of new sugar mills and the expansion of existing mills besides prohibiting the relocation of mills as well.

In 2015, the provincial government, however, allowed relocation of the mills after amending the 2006 notification.

Consequently, three sugar mills, Chaudhry Sugar Mills, Haseeb Waqas Sugar Mills and Ittefaq Sugar Mills, believed to be the property of the Sharif family, were relocated to Rahim Yar Khan, Muzaffargarh and Bahawalpur respectively.  In 2016, Tareen moved the LHC against Sharif family mills’ relocation with the contention that the said amendment was made only to benefit the Sharif family and that the relocation was illegal.