ISLAMABAD, May 5: The government has ordered to maintain status quo in the affairs of the Sost Dry Port Trust. It, however, allowed the new management of the Trust to continue to run the port affairs till court decision expected on May 16.

This was decided at meeting held here on Monday at the Kashmir and Northern Areas Affairs Ministry under the chairmanship of the KANA Division Secretary Salman Siddiq.

This is being described as a victory for the new management of the Sost Dry Port Trust and the people of Hunza-Gojal.

The officials of Northern Areas administration, including chief secretary and deputy commissioner gave presentation about the issue, sources privy to the meeting told Dawn.

The former management team — Saleem Khan, Barkat Ali and Shabaz Khan — staged a walk out when they found themselves in a tight position and could not answer to the points raised at the meeting, the sources said.

They made unconvincing attempts to counter the arguments and reports of the local administration and the port’s new management.

The KANA secretary and other officials posed many pertinent questions about the affairs of the project but Mr Saleem and his team were unable to satisfy them. In this embarrassing situation Mr Saleem Khan and his team left the scene making it appear as if he was walking out under protest, the sources said.

The delegation of the newly-elected Board of Trustees comprised of Nazir Sabir, Wazir Baig, Ghulam Mohammad, Hur Shah, Advocate Ehsan Ali, Darvesh Ali, Shafa Ali, Mirza Hassan, Aziz Jan, Gul Sher.

The Chinese side could not come to attend the talks. They had sent a message that since this was a dispute between the people of Hunza on their 40 per cent share there presence at the meeting was not required.

The board of trustees’ team also briefed media at a news conference at Islamabad Press Club later in the day about the issue.

“The people of Northern Areas who have long suffered from gross and unpardonable neglect under different administrations consider the formation of the coalition government in Islamabad a good omen and hope that the new leadership will deliver us from the injustices of the last many years during which some of our longstanding problems have continued to aggravate”, they said.

The neglect of past regimes was compounded by the anti-people policies and misrule of the Ghazanfar-led PML government that was installed through a rigged election and subsequent horse trading in 2004, they added.

One of the many serious issues that have been dogging the people of Hunza-Gojal is the “gross mismanagement” and “irregularities” committed by the former management of Sost Dry Port Trust which has not only disturbed the peace of the region but also jeopardised the friendship of Pakistan and China, they said.

Powerful elements have their own axe to grind and benefit from local unrest. They held Chief Executive of Northern Areas, Ghazanfar Ali Khan, and his family, responsible for the situation who have spoiled this important project by monopolising the management and affairs of the Trust.

It may be recalled that the shareholders and landowners held a meeting on April 4 and removed Ghazanfar Ali and his son from their posts and took over the management. Mr Ghazanfar tried to implicate them in ‘false’ cases. But the district and session’s court Gilgit suspended the order of a lower court and restrained the local police from taking any action against the new management till May 16.

The important aspect of Sost Dry Port is its future expected volume and its impact on the local economy. Hunza valley and the whole Gilgit-Baltistan region is situated at the cross roads of international trade linking China and Central Asian States with South Asia, petroleum producing Gulf countries and the West through Gwadar Port.

This economic and energy corridor is being improved with the proposed expansion of Karakoram Highway and planning is in process for railway track, oil and gas pipelines and fibre optic link through the most rugged mountain chain.

They urged the PPP-led coalition government to safeguard the interests of the poor people in a project they had set up on self help basis in expectation of generating resources for the education, health and job opportunities for the people.

They hoped that the rights of the rightful will be restored and all matters settled once for all so that there is no tension in the area and the ties with China are not adversely affected.

Meanwhile a large number of people from Gilgit-Baltistan living in the twin cities staged a protest demonstration against the misrule of the Chief Executive.

They were chanting slogans against the former royal family and demanding a probe into the alleged irregularities in the financial affairs of the Trust and harassment of the people by the chief executive and his family members.



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