Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had announced a Rs. 2.5 billion Kissan (farmers) Package for the development of Lodhran district in Southern Punjab on November 6, 2015.
The prime minister in November last year had announced the package for the district at a time when the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had announced the schedule for by-polls in NA-154, Lodhran, vacated after the disqualification of a PML-N parliamentarian.
Sharif had said the way people of the area had expressed their love for Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) by casting their votes every time, and his party too would pay back in the same way.
Sharif had quoted as saying while speaking to farmers of the area: “You all know who tried to stop the government from the implementation of this historic package and still claims to represent the poor people.”
In addition, he had announced interest-free loans for farmers with the pledge that markup on the loans would be paid by the federal government.
Truth Tracker contacted treasury and opposition’s parliamentarians and independent analyst to check whether the amount of the promised package has been disbursed or otherwise.
When asked has the PML-N disbursed the amount of the promised Kissan package, Senator Nihal Hashmi of PML-N said, “I think there was a sort of Supreme Court restrictions on that package. I think there was a court order not to disburse the amount. The package was affected because of court directives.”
The amount, he said could not be disbursed the way the prime minister wanted. “I have really no idea how much amount of that package has been disbursed,” he added.
Truth Tracker noticed that most of the PML-N leaders, who are always there to defend the prime minister and the party, declined to comment on the issue.
Danyal Aziz and Talal Chaudhry, the frontline defenders of the prime minister, did not return calls despite repeated attempts.
Siddiqul Farooq, a former spokesman of PML-N and Chairman of the Evacuee Trust Property Board, said that he could not comment on the issue. “I can only discuss the issues related to my office.”
When contacted, Jahangir Khan Tareen, a lawmaker of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) who had won the by-election for NA-154 by defeating the PML-N candidate, said that the genuine farmers did not get a single penny of the Kissan package while the PML-N had offered a huge chunk of the package to its supporters.
“The PML-N has announced the package for winning the National Assembly’s seat but faced a humiliating defeat,” Tareen said.
“Prime Minister’s announcement that was a kind of inducement worked for the PML-N candidate, who bagged a good number of vote otherwise he would have faced a shameful defeat,” claimed Tareen.
Nadeem Afzal Chan, Secretary General of Pakistan Peoples; Party (PPP) Central Punjab Chapter, said. “That package was simply another bundle of lies to trap the innocent voters.”
The farmers, he said, are being given loans on as high as 17% interest rate instead. “Announcing these kinds of packages during canvassing is totally wrong and amount to political corruption,” he added.
Dr Ashfaque Hasan Khan, a leading economist, said the country’s vital agriculture sector is under immense pressure, which needs a serious attention for revival.”
“Though I am not a lawyer, but I think these kinds of announcements during election campaigns are the clear violation of the Election Rules. And the move is considered as pre-polls rigging,” he added.
He said it is fine if the prime minister had announced the package but it could not reach to the deserved farmers.
“I am of the opinion that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should have taken notice of this (Kissan package). Announcing these kinds of packages prior to elections is a bid to influence voters, which is wrong,” he concluded.
In the light of given facts, figures and shared views by the opposition and treasury members and an independent analyst, Truth Tracker rules that the prime minister’s promise stands broken.