ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Monday ordered the relevant ministries to take measures for the provision of food commodities at affordable price to the people.

Justice Gulzar Ahmed heading a two-member bench, which heard the Jammat-e-Islami petition on upsurge of flour prices, said billions of rupees have been stashed in Workers Welfare Funds and Employees Old-Age Benefit Institution (EOBI) but the government was not ready to spend them on the masses. “Instead of constructing houses for the poor, big cars are being purchased and the officials attend international conferences and stay in five star hotels with that money,” he added.

Justice Gulzar said funds of Workers Welfare and EOBI are huge and with that new cities could be established, but practically nothing has been done for the welfare of the people.

Punjab Additional Advocate General Razaq A Mirza informed the court that the ban on transportation of wheat to Khyber Pukhtunkhwa has been lifted and the provincial government had issued notice in this regard.

Sareet Asghar, secretary national ministry of food security, informed the court that through Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) the people are provided assistance, adding because of better system there are lesser chances of corruption in BISP.

Justice Gulzar said BISP was not the answer to resolve the basic needs of the common man because poverty could not be reduced with that programme. He said the issue was of provision of food items at affordable price. The court observed that on one hand billions of rupees have been distributed and on the other common man was unable to buy the essential food commodities.

Deputy Attorney General Attique Shah informed that in India laws had been legislated in this regard. Upon that Justice Gulzar said situation in India is worst than Pakistan.

The secretary food ministry further said that 5.6 million people, who had been living below the poverty line, across the country are being provided assistance through this programme. Justice Gulzar said that the government would have to take some measure for the provision of food items to poor masses and for that all relevant departments have to cooperate with each other.

A lawyer said that people living below the poverty line are much higher than informed by the secretary food ministry. He said there are reports of the international organisation regarding it. Upon that Justice Gulzar said these reports are prepared with some purpose as many NGOs’ affairs depend on such reports.

Justice Gulzar asked the ministries that their officials should themselves visit the poverty-stricken areas and compile reports. He said many government officials have no knowledge of Article 38 in the Constitution then how could they get it implemented. He said the government is showing negligence to ameliorate the condition of the poor.

The case was adjourned for a week.