ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court Monday directed the federal government to convene a meeting of officials of food departments of the federation and provinces to suggest possible ways and means through which the fundamental rights under Articles 9 and 14 of the constitution could be assured to the citizens.
Rafique Rajwana, who has been appointed amicus curiae in the case, said it was the state responsibility to provide essential food items at reasonable prices to the citizens. He said when there was inaction on part of the government functionaries, the masses looked towards the Supreme Court for redressal of their grievances.
A two-judge bench headed by Justice Jawwad S Khawaja hearing Jamaat-e-Islami’s petition on upsurge in flour price expressed dissatisfaction over the additional attorney general’s report, which contains the input of the advocate generals of all the provinces.
The court noticed that the report was incomplete, as it did not contain relevant information and statistics to enable the court to ascertain whether or not the fundamental rights were indeed being assured to the citizens of the country. The law officers were directed to file the report, which should also include relevant statistical data aimed at demonstrating that abovementioned fundamental rights were being met.
Additional Attorney General Attique Shah informed that a total of Rs 40.1 billion subsidy on wheat was given by the federal and provincial governments to its citizens.
PML-N Senator Rafique Rajwana proposed the court to direct the federal government to convene a meeting of the responsible government functionaries of the federation and the provinces to inform the court about possible ways and means through which the fundamental rights under Articles 9 and 14 of the Constitution could be assured to the citizens of Pakistan.
He said procurement procedure was very difficult as, besides the government, the middlemen directly contact the growers and smuggle wheat to Afghanistan. He said the FBR officials did not take notice of wheat smuggling to Afghanistan through trucks in broad daylight.
Rajwana also suggested that there was need to check the attitude of flour millers, as there were more mills than required, adding those mills were involved in hoarding.
Dr Shakeelur Rehman, food security commissioner in ministry of national food security and research, informed that a person in Pakistan required minimum 2,350 calories per day, which came from the wheat. The government makes sure that the wheat is supplied in every part of the country, he said and added that in the whole year there was no wheat shortage. Dr Shakeel and all the law officers had general opinion that an effort was required to ensure that the minimum nutritional needs of the citizens were met.
Taufiq Asif suggested that on spot determination needed to be made because in open market in Rawalpindi the 20-kg bag of flour was being sold at Rs 1,050, while price of a rotti (bread) is Rs 8 to Rs 10. The court in view of that constituted four committees, which would visit Rawalpindi, Islamabad and all the four provinces along with the advocate general of that province.
The court was told that the minimum wage of an unskilled worker in the four provinces ranged from Rs 7,000 to Rs 9,000. Dr Shakeel Ahmed Khan was, therefore, asked to prepare a table to show how a family comprising two adults and two minors would be able to survive with dignity within the minimum wage as per article 14 of the constitution.
The case was adjourned till April 22.