Farmers begin march on capital over non-fulfillment of demands.


SAHIWAL -- The Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI) has apparently ended its negotiations with the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) federal and provincial governments and announced a protest march and sit-in outside Parliament House, Islamabad, for Wednesday (today).

The PKI senior leadership admitted that they had postponed their June 17 and 18 protests in Lahore and Islamabad, respectively, after holding separate meetings with Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Fakhar Imam, Federal Minister for Energy Umer Ayub, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaisar, who is also chairman of the National Task Force on Agriculture, and PM's finance adviser Hafeez Shaikh and the finance secretary from June 14-16 at the Parliament House Committee Room.

'But none of the commitments made by the federal ministers were fulfilled even after the passage of a week,' Khalid Mahmood Khokhar, the PKI central president, told Dawn.

The leadership that held negotiations with the government included Mr Khokhar, Punjab President Chaudhry Rizwan, General Secretary Chaudhry Ihsan Ikram and senior member Muhammad Hussain.

Demands included direct subsidy on fertiliser bag, fixing of per-unit rate at Rs5.35 on agricultural tubewell

Their leadership placed three major demands with the government, including direct subsidy on each fertiliser bag by replacing token subsidy mechanism, reduction of tariff and fixing of electricity rate at Rs5.35 per unit on agricultural tubewell, and writing off of interest on all kinds of agricultural loans.

Mr Khokhar said both ministers had agreed to the PKI demands and assured them that budget allocations for agriculture would be increased from Rs50bn to Rs80bn.

Chaudhry Rizwan, who also attended the meeting, told Dawn that minister Mr Ayub told Mr Imam after a meeting with the finance team that after calculating tariff rates, it will be hard to reduce per-unit electricity rate to Rs5.35 (announced during the previous PML-N government), but could be brought down to Rs14.50. But even for that the government would need Rs29bn extra for agriculture.

Both ministers assured the PKI that the amount would be arranged and lead to an increase in the total agriculture budget to Rs80bn. But sources inside the meeting told Dawn that the finance department refused to increase a single penny beyond Rs50bn allocated in the federal budget. This was confirmed by Mr Rizwan.

The finance department told the ministers that from the Rs50bn...

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