ISLAMABAD                 -                 Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday termed smuggling as a curse for national economy and said that strict action was inevitable against smugglers, hoarders and profiteers to eliminate such ills from the society.

While chairing a meeting to control smuggling, crackdown on hoarders and eliminating locust attacks on crops, the prime minister said smuggling and hoarding resulted in inflation that put direct financial burden on general public and poor.

Interior Minister Brig (retired) Ijaz Shah, Minister for National Food Security Syed Fakhar Imam, Planning Minister Asad Umar, Minister for Economic Affairs Khusro Bakhtiar, Finance Adviser Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, PM’s Special Assistant on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, Chairman National Disaster Management Authority General Muhammad Afzal and senior officials were also present in the meeting.

The prime minister emphasised the role of intelligence agencies in checking smuggling and hoarding and called for appointment of honest and dutiful officers at checkpoints. He also stressed effective coordination among the provinces with monitoring on daily basis and directed to ensure smooth working without any administrative hurdle.

The participants were briefed about target of wheat procurement for next year and provision of ‘bardana’ (gunny bags) for farmers. Khusro Bakhtiar told the meeting that Punjab government and Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (PASSCO) took timely steps for wheat procurement and other provinces needed to follow the suit.

He said that last year, four million ton wheat was procured with this year’s target as 8.2 million ton, however mentioned some difficulties in this regard following the recent rains.

The Prime Minister stressed comprehensive strategy to ensure provision of wheat and flour to consumers.

The meeting discussed ongoing emergency regarding the attacks of locust swarms on crops and the steps taken so far to control including spray of pesticides through planes and other machines.

Purpose-built spray aircraft and machinery has already been imported from China. However, more equipment is required which was delayed due to coronavirus lockdown, the meeting was informed.

Prime Minister Imran Khan termed locusts another big problem for the country and directed availability of funds for its elimination.

PM seeks relief proposals from Special Committee on Agriculture

Also, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday sought recommendations from the Special Committee on Agricultural Products for providing special relief to agriculture sector in the wake of crisis of COVID-19.

In a meeting with Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser, also the chairperson of 31-member special committee, the prime minister said the government was considering relief for agriculture sector in budget besides introduction of effective policies.

The Prime Minister said parliament was representative of the people’s aspirations and it was important to keep the institution functional even during the situation of coronavirus. Asad Qaiser, who is also the head of parliamentary Committee on COVID-19 apprised the prime minister about proposals of the body including the convening a virtual session of National Assembly. He said in view of the prevailing situation of coronavirus, the meetings of the parliament’s standing committees were being held through video-link.

The prime minister lauded the efforts of Asad Qaiser in maintaining religious harmony among different segments.