ISLAMABAD -  The Supreme Court yesterday rejected the plea to reopen the Sharif family’s relocated sugar mills in South Punjab and ordered the stakeholders to devise a plan to purchase sugarcane from affected farmers by Tuesday.

Pakistan Kissan Ittehad had challenged the Lahore High Court verdict in September last, declaring the relocation of the Sharif family’s mills to southern Punjab illegal.

The farmers had demanded the reopening of the Sharif family’s three relocated sugar mills – Chaudhry Sugar Mills to Rahim Yar Khan, Haseeb Waqas Sugar Mills to Muzaffargarh and Ittefaq Sugar Mills to Bahawalpur.

A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, heard the growers’ appeal.

To resolve the matter, the chief justice ordered constitution of a three-member committee, comprising an additional sessions judge, representatives of sugar mills and farmers, to thrash out a complete plan for purchasing sugarcane by Tuesday.

The cane commissioner told the court that around 57 spots had been established for the purchase of sugarcane.

On the other hand, the growers complained that a severe injustice was being meted out to them.

The chief justice asked the counsel for the growers whether the farmers had been brought to exert pressure on the court.

The court directed all the parties to hold a meeting with Tareen’s counsel, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, asking the cane commissioner to attend it. The court directed representatives of the sugar mills and farmers to submit their respective proposals, adding it would pass an appropriate order after examining them.

The court directed the representatives of the five sugar mills to formulate a strategy for lifting sugarcane from the growers and submit a report.

During the hearing, the counsel representing the growers said sugarcane worth Rs 17 billion was available in Rahim Yar Khan only.

The chief justice observed since no other sugar mills were operating in the area, the farmers should grow more sugarcane. He said the LHC had declared shifting of Ittefaq, Chaudhry and Haseeb Waqas Sugar Mills illegal. The top judge said there was no justification for the reopening of the non-operational mills.

Barrister Ahsan again assured the court of purchasing sugarcane from the growers.

At the last hearing, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader and Jamaluddin Wali Sugar Mills owner, Jehangir Tareen, along with four other sugar mills owners, had expressed his willingness to purchase sugarcane from all the farmers affected by the closure of the Sharif family sugar mills.

Barrister Ahsan, on behalf of Tareen, had given an undertaking that his client along with the owners of Hamza, Ashraf, RYK and Indus sugar mills was ready to buy the harvested sugarcane from the growers at the rate fixed by the government, which was Rs 180 per 40 kilograms. The case was adjourned until February 21.

 

TERENCE J SIGAMONY