ISLAMABAD - As the skyrocketing prices of wheat flour have started biting consumers across the country, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday ordered a toughest crackdown against the hoarders and profiteers to stabilize the commodity prices.

Taking notice of the reports of sudden hike in the price of wheat flour across the country, the Prime Minister has directed the concerned authorities to take strict and indiscriminate action against the elements involved in the illegitimate price hike.

He instructed the provincial governments especially Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhewa to ensure that the commodity is available to consumers on the controlled rates.

In a related development, following the directives of the prime minister, the PTI governments in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhewa provinces have launched operations on massive scale on the hoarders.   

Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar personally informed the Prime Minister about the steps being taken by the provincial government in this regard.

He assured the prime minister that he would not tolerate the overcharging of flour at any cost and would ensure the availability of flour to the people at the officially-fixed rates.

He also said that the government would not let flour price increase in the province and directed the Punjab Food Department to launch a crackdown against 376 flour mills.

Consequently, the department came into action and has imposed an overall fine of above Rs 90 million besides suspending the licences of 15 flour mills.

Action has also been initiated against the Food Department officers for showing negligence in their duties and four such officers have been removed from their posts.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where PTI has its government has been the most hit region as a result of the flour shortage ostensibly after the Punjab government banned supply to the province to fix its own crisis earlier this week.

This has left the provinces with severe shortage of stocks which led to a phenomenal rise of Rs.5 per kg in the price of flour, while the dealers have blamed the Punjab government for stopping the supply.

On Friday for the second time in a week, the price of flour has recorded a Rs.6 per kg increase which has led to sharp increase in the price to Rs70 per kg in Peshawar, Lahore, Karachi and other cities of the country.

On the other hand, the Flour Mills Association in a statement said that the hike in the flour price was because of the lack of subsidy from the government.

“The price was increased after a surge in wheat price,” a statement issued by the association said, adding “The situation has turned worse because of the government’s new electricity and gas tariffs.”

Earlier in the day, leader of the opposition in the national assembly and PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif slammed the surge in prices of wheat flour across Pakistan.

He urged the government to reveal the truth on why Pakistan was faced with a shortage of the basic food commodity.

Shehbaz said that it was the right of the people to know what had happened to wheat stocks of the country.

The opposition leader said that the prime minister should take strict action against those involved in creating the conundrum and resolve the matter on an urgent basis.