An LHC division bench headed by Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah Wednesday ordered constitution of a commission to determine the facts about sugarcane crop, its environmental impact as well as its alleged damage to the crop of wheat and cotton in different parts of Punjab.
The bench passed the order on a petition filed by Pakistan Cotton and Grinners Association through its counsel.
During the hearing, Advocate Khwaja Haris advanced his arguments on behalf of the Punjab government. The court sought more arguments on the next hearing. JWD, sugar mill owned by PTI leader Jahangir Khan Tareen, had challenged shifting of sugar mills in southern Punjab.
While in contempt petitions against three sugar mills, Haseeb Waqas sugar mills submitted its written reply and two others Ittefaq and Chuadhry Sugar mills. The court directed them to come up with their reply on the next hearing. The court put off further hearing on contempt petition on June 13. However, the hearing on appeals against single bench’s verdict about shifting of sugar mills was adjourned until May 24.
Previously, the counsel for Pakistan Cotton and Ginners Association presented official data which showed that establishment of sugar mills had replaced cotton and wheat and had created huge loss to the national interest.
The counsel argued that the government did not do any research and development and made no investment in Southern Punjab where sugar mills were already overburdened with sugarcanes. The farmers were not being paid who were running from pillar to post for their payments, he said. He said the sugar mills should permanently be banned in the cotton areas.
The counsel said that cultivation of sugar mills in South Punjab damaged the land and water level and also caused financial loss to the farmers. He said it had replaced all other crops including wheat and cotton which he said was a big loss.
In 2015, Agriculture Secretary prepared a report in which he said that sugar mills in Southern Punjab had triggered cultivation of sugarcane crop by replacing other crops including cotton and wheat. He said Punjab CM was not being informed the actual situation. Water level was going down in those areas where sugar crop was being cultivated. According to official data of the Punjab government, water level went low in eleven districts including Rahimyar Khan, Bahawalnagar, Bahawalpur, Muzaffargarh, Okara, Pakpattan, Khanewal, Layyah, Rajanpur and Sahiwal. In three districts, including Muzaffargarh, Layyah and Rajanpur, the water level was up but gradually was going down and down due to sugarcane crop.
In April 2011, Qureshi argued, a technical committee was formed comprising Secretary Agriculture, Secretary Industry, Secretary Food and two technical experts and a representative from PSMA. He said the technical committee in its findings held: “Sugar industry which mainly based on sugarcane has expanded well in Punjab with the outcome that existing 45 sugar mills are already operating under capacity. Since area under sugarcane already suffers from water stress. Therefore, any further addition would amount to wastage of capital and other resources”. The committee also suggested: “Industrial policy in the province needs to be reviewed and realigned to channelize our resources to directly needed areas of investment.” The counsel submitted Punjab government’s report before the court.
Besides this, the cost on sugarcane was doubled while cotton and wheat both were different crops which in the past had brought huge financial benefit to the country, the counsel argued. After hearing his arguments, the bench had observed that a commission should be formed to determine all these facts.