N. As chief loses Sost dry port battle

Published October 28, 2008

HUNZA, Oct 27: The trustees of Sost Dry Port won a long-drawn battle against the former management after the Northern Areas Chief Court rejected the objections of Chief Executive Ghazanfar Ali Khan against the recently-held election to the port’s board of directors.

The two-member bench comprising Justice Sahib Khan and Justice Muzaffar Ali held the election to be “legal, transparent and according to the direction of the court.” The bench also notified the result of the election held on October 6, according to which Afsar Jan was elected chairman, Hoor Shah senior vice-chairman and Raza Mohammad vice-chairman of the Silk Route Dry Port Trust. Mr Afsar Jan got 77 out of 133 votes against only one vote cast in favour of Mr Ghazanfar. The civil judge of Aliabad conducted the election.

The new chairman has announced that the names of all shareholders will be included in the trust deed and from now onwards recruitments in the port will be made strictly on merit.

He accused Salim Khan of illegally acquiring a loan of Rs50 million from the National Bank of Pakistan in the name of the port development by faking the signatures of seven Pakistani and Chinese directors and management personnel.

With the chief court’s verdict, the nine-year controversy between the trustees, mostly poor people and community organisations, and Mr Ghazanfar Ali Khan and his family over the management of the dry port trust has apparently come to an end.

The trustees, in particular the people of Gojal-Hunza, have heaved a sigh of relief. Some of the trustees hoped that the new management would probe the irregularities and alleged embezzlement of millions of rupees committed by the former management and recover the money from them.

They also hoped that the new management would run the affairs of the port efficiently and with transparency.

Mr Ghazanfar and his supporters saw the writing on the wall and did not participate in the election. He filed a petition with the chief court to postpone the polls for six months. But the court rejected the plea and ordered the civil judge Hunza to conduct the election according to schedule.

The dispute erupted when after taking over as deputy chief executive in 2004, Mr Ghazanfar started misusing his powers and allegedly misappropriated port revenues.

Moreover, he did not convene any board meeting causing frustration among the shareholders. He also deprived the 124 shareholders and 147 landowners of their rights and occupied the port forcefully with the help of local administration to turn the trust into a family property.

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