ISLAMABAD - Former President Asif Ali Zardari yesterday rejected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s package for farmers, terming it a political gimmick.

PPP Co-chairman Zardari said the package was devoid of substance and sincerity and was aimed at hoodwinking farmers and people before local government polls in the province.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Tuesday last announced Rs 341 billion package for the farmers, which envisaged direct cash assistance, relief in prices of agriculture inputs, provision of agricultural loans and simplifying the procedure of loans.

Interestingly, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf welcomed the announcement, terming it a ‘good initiative.’

In a statement, the former President deplored that an issue of food security and farmers’ survival was being dealt with in a manner that was no more than a political gimmick.

“When the opposition parties and the people were agitating for rescuing farmers from destruction, the government paid no attention, but as soon as the LG polls were announced, it gave a so-called relief package without specifying the source of funding,” he asserted.

“The government of the big business houses has deliberately targeted the farmers, hoping to weaken the political power base of the democratic opposition parties, but not realising the enormous damage caused to the country in the process,” he added. “The farmers have been rightly demanding adequate support price for their produce which the government has stubbornly refused,” Zardari said.

The former President said that during the PPP governments the agriculture sector witnessed a healthy boom that added to the national wealth, brought relief to the farmers and resulted in overall prosperity.

The present government, neglecting the farming sector, diverted resources to politically visible projects like Metro bus for the sake of political mileage rather than serving the interests of farmers, he maintained.

Zardari said the PPP policies of giving good support price and fixing tariff for tube-wells at Rs eight per unit made the country self-sufficient in wheat and brought prosperity to the farmers.