KARACHI: Federal Cabinet on Thursday rejected a proposal of its Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) to import cotton and sugar from India, which would undermine PM Imran Khan’s plan to break sugar millers’ cartel.

“Cabinet stated clearly NO trade with India,” Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari said in a tweet soon after a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday.

Imported sugar would have broken the monopoly of the local sugar cartel, which is allegedly led by PM Imran Khan’s former associate Jahangir Tareen. With the presence of Indian sugar in the market, local millers could not be able to blackmail authorities or manipulate prices.

However, the rejection of ECC summary shows the influence and power of sugar barons.

On Wednesday, Federal Finance Minister Hammad Azhar had announced the government’s intention to import sugar and cotton from India.

The decision was seen as an important milestone in the slowly warming ties between the two neighbouring countries.

The minister, in his first press conference since being given the finance portfolio, had spoken about the high prices of sugar in Pakistan, noting that the government had allowed sugar to be imported from other countries, but the price of the commodity in the supplier countries had risen considerably.

“However, in our neighbouring country India, the price of sugar is quite cheap,” he said. “Hence, we have decided to resume sugar trade with India”.

He had said the measure would help bring down sugar prices in Pakistan and provide relief to the poor.

Azhar had said the demand for cotton in Pakistan was also increasing and the country needed the commodity in a large amount. He said Pakistan had not produced quality cotton last year hence it had given the green signal for it to be imported from other countries around the globe.

“However, the import of cotton from India was banned and this had a direct effect on our SMEs,” he said.

“At the recommendation of the Ministry of Commerce, we have also decided to resume the trade of cotton with India,” he had said.

Azhar’s announcement on Wednesday to import cotton and sugar from India had raised hopes of a partial revival of bilateral trade relations, which were suspended after the August 5, 2019, decision of New Delhi to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.