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LAHORE: Farmers have sought the government support against exploitation by the sugar mill owners. In a joint press conference, held at the Press Club here on Sunday, President Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI) Khalid Khokhar, Chairman Pakistan Kissan Foundation (PKF) Mehmood Bukhari, senior farmer leader Chaudhry Mansha Sandhu and other leaders said that sugar mill owners were badly exploiting sugarcane growers.

They said that sugar mill owners were yet to pay Rs 3 billion to farmers, though some payments had been paid on the government pressure. They urged the government that payments should be ensured after collecting fine and arrears from the sugar mills. They said sugar mill owners were responsible for the poor financial condition of farmers and the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) was equally responsible for it. They said the decision of imposing Rs 44 billion fine on the sugar mills by the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) was historic and farmers welcome it.

The PKI president thanked Prime Minister Imran Khan that he was fulfilling his commitment about bringing prosperity to farmers. Khokhar said that the reversal of the May 4 Act, which was issued without presenting it in the Punjab Assembly was made possible after the intervention of the prime minister. "I had sent a message to the prime minister, who took immediate action on it," he said.

Chairman PKF Syed Mehmood Bukhari said fines should be collected from sugar mills as well as sugar mills associations and distributed among farmers.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader and Kissan Ittehad leader Chaudhry Mansha Sindhu said it was for the first time in the country's history that powerful had been brought to book. He said that it would not be difficult for Imran Khan to win the next election if the welfare of farmers was ensured. He said that only Imran Khan could end the exploitation of farmers.

Chaudhry Yasin, head of All Pakistan Kissan Bachao Tehreek, said farmers should get rid of the powerful mafia of sugar mills owners and the Sugar Mills Association, which had not been clearing arrears of farmers since 1983. He said the sugarcane growers had been starving for a long time. Farmers pray for the prime minister, who created the possibility of stopping the looting of sugar mill mafia. The farmer leaders said that arbitrary confusion was being spread about the divided number of decision makers of the Competition Commission, while the fact was that this decision was in favour of the farmers. They said that today, farmers were happy that they would get better rates and there would be timely payments to farmers.

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