ISLAMABAD - The major oppositions has set aside the government committee headed by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) chief to probe wheat shortage in the country that has caused soaring four prices and a political headache for Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The oppositions, including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) have rejected the committee while the former proposed a parliamentary committee comprising of both treasury and opposition members to probe the matter and fix responsibility.

The PML-N has questioned as to how an investigation agency working under the direct control of the federal government could probe the important government functionaries and ministers that were being named in alleged scam of worth billions of rupees.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan formed a high-level inquiry committee headed by FIA Director General Wajid Zia to fix responsibility of wheat shortage and soaring flour prices in the country. Zia shot to fame as the head of the joint investigation team that probed Panama Papers scandal against erstwhile prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family.

The others members of the committee included director general of Punjab’s Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) and an officer of grade 20 or above of Intelligence Bureau—the civilian intelligence agency.

Earlier this month, the wheat shortage in the country caused an increase in the prices of flour that shoot up from Rs40 per kg to Rs75 per kg. The crisis gave an opportunity to the opposition to slam at PM Imran Khan for his “incompetency to deal with the governance and economic issues the country is facing apart from rising inflation, especially increasing prices of essential commodities. The government claimed that the crisis is artificial and only a matter of disturbance in supply chain of staple.

“We, being in opposition, reject this committee headed by FIA chief and propose that a parliamentary committee comprising of lawmakers of both treasury and opposition from both the houses should be formed to probe the matter,” said PML-N Senator Muhammad Javed Abbasi, Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Law & Justice, in an interview to The Nation.

“It is the Parliament that should probe who was responsible for the crisis and who within the government allowed to export wheat in excess causing shortage locally,” he said and added that the parliamentary committee should make public its report within two weeks, said the Senator. He alleged that some individuals within the government or close to it have allegedly embezzled billions of rupees in this crisis.

Senator Abbasi, an outspoken lawmaker of the major opposition party, wondered that FIA that works under Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government has been tasked to probe a scandal that allegedly involved key government functionaries as well as its ministers. “How FIA chief could give findings of the probe against the ministers,” he said, adding that the committee would restrict itself only to general findings and recommendations. “This is government’s own committee formed to conceal its own mistakes in the matter and it has no worth to probe such a mega corruption scandal.”

The PML-N legislator said that the opposition would raise this matter in the Senate sitting scheduled to be held today.

PPP Senator Moula Bux Chandio while talking to a private TV channel also showed his no-confidence over the committee, adding that the whole government looked helpless in resolving the crisis.

Earlier, Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani had referred issue of soaring flour prices to the Senate Standing Committee on National Food Security with the direction to probe the matter and report back to the house. On the shortage of staple, all government stakeholders, including the provincial governments, the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet and the federal ministries of food security and commerce are passing the buck to each other.

Earlier, Prime Minister Secretariat in a statement said that the committee is tasked to identify and fix responsibility on any individual, officer, organisation, including any supposed benefit given to a private party, besides suggesting a way forward for future course of action to avoid such crisis.

The inquiry report shall identify causes of shortage, circumstances leading to the crisis, assessment of future stock, and management of wheat stocks. The committee shall complete the inquiry until February 6 to be submitted to the Prime Minister Office.

Earlier this week, the government allowed duty-free import of 300,000 tonnes of wheat to end the shortage. It is facing criticism from the opposition for allowing export of over 600,000 tonnes of wheat from late 2018 to June 2019.

Federal Minister for National Food Security Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar earlier told the Senate that the country has 4 million tonnes of wheat in public sector reserves that is enough to meet its needs till fresh crop starts arriving in the market in March.