By Shabbir Mir
GILGIT: Gilgit-Baltistan’s Supreme Appellate Court dismissed a petition against Sost Dry Port Trust Chairperson Zafar Iqbal and allowed him to continue to hold the post.
The petition was filed by Chinese staffers at Sost Dry Port, which is partially managed by Sinotrans, a Chinese company.
“The decision was handed down by the chief judge, Justice Rana Muhammad Shamim, on Tuesday,” a lawyer told The Express Tribuneon Wednesday. “The appeal filed by Chinese officials was dismissed. The decision is seen as a milestone for the region that serves as gateway for the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project.”
In the backdrop
Sost is the first formal port at the China-Pakistan border, clearing goods coming from the Chinese region of Kashgar, Xinjiang.
According to the agreement, the management of the port was to be handed over to Pakistan by the Chinese after 10 years.
The new management was elected in August 2013 with Iqbal as the chairperson. According to Iqbal, when he went to assume office, he was refused access. This is corroborated by a letter a magistrate, Mir Alam, wrote to update the deputy commissioner on the situation.
A court also ordered the authorities to have the office vacated. The deputy commissioner of Hunza-Nagar was told by the Chief Minister’s Secretariat on June 24, 2014 to execute the court order to “vacate the office of the vice-chairman occupied illegally by the Chinese partners”.
On Saturday July 5, 2014 Pak-China Sost Port Company Spokesperson Gul Sher Khan accused Iqbal of forcing his way into the dry port’s office with 20 others.
On Saturday, July 12, 2014 the government issued a notification saying that for 20 days the Sost Dry Port would be managed by the old set-up, that is, the Chinese.
The G-B government took control of affairs of Sost Dry Port in 2014 after Chinese and Pakistani staffers developed differences over the transfer of power and audit of the port’s financial reports.
Subsequently, the Chinese and Pakistani staffers approached G-B’s top court. The court ruled in Iqbal’s favour. Through their lawyers, the Chinese workers filed a petition in the Supreme Appellate Court against the decision. However, the apex court upheld chief court’s decision.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2016.