Gwadar Port Authority: PSA barred from transferring any property

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ISLAMABAD :The Supreme Court on Wednesday barred the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) Gwadar Ltd from transferring immovable property of Gwadar Port Authority (GPA) to any private party till the final decision of the court, and allowed the government of Balochistan to be a party to the case, as it had serious reservations over the deal.

The court issued the stay order on a separate application moved by Barrister Zafarullah of the Watan Party who had voiced apprehensions that the government might sell the 600 km long coastal belt to the PSA.

Advocate General Balcohistan Salahuddin Mengal had filed an application seeking permission to be party in the case. He contended that the federal government neither considered the reservations of the Balochistan government nor had taken it into confidence.

He told the court that despite lapse of over two years, the name of Balochistan Chief Minister could not be notified as chairman of Gwadar Port Authority. Headed by President Pervez Musharraf, previous regime had given management and operational control of the deep-sea port to PSA, owned by
Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings, in February 2007 for 40 years.

A three-member bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Ghulam Rabbani and Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday was hearing a joint petition in supersession of its own initiative taken earlier through suo motu notice. The court issued notices to the parties in the case and adjourned the hearing for three weeks. The petitioners had pleaded to the court to cancel February 6, 2007 Concession Agreement (CA) between the Gwadar Port Authority (GPA) and Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) Gwadar Ltd and order the government to take back the possession, operation and management of the port.

The court expressed dismay over GPA for engaging a private lawyer in the presence of Attorney General. The public exchequer cannot be allowed to be spent in this manner when the AG is available, the bench observed. To bench s query Attorney General Molvi Anwarul Haq admitted that he was not consulted over the issue.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry directed the AG to consult the Prime Minister and referred to the Rules of Business 1996, that if ministries/departments wanted to engage private counsel they would have to seek the Prime Minister s or the Federal Cabinet approval. Justice Khalil ur Rehman Ramday remarked that about 35 lawyers were engaged by the Federation in 18th Amendment case and majority of them even could not utter a single word.

Meanwhile, the petition moved by Muhammad Zakir Khan, Yousaf Masti Khan, Muhammad Navaid Khan, Alay Javed Zadi and Ashraf Ali Haideri through Advocate Abdul Hafeez Pirzada alleged that PSA had failed miserably in fulfilling its stated commitments and Gwadar Port has not even been able to achieve a fraction of the size, status and volume it was projected to at the time of award of the CA to PSA.

Since PSA has failed to attract commercial vessels to Gwadar Port, it is reported and in common knowledge that the government at the expense of the public exchequer is subsidising and artificially creating business for PSA by diverting different cargoes of urea and wheat (otherwise destined for the ports at Karachi) to Gwadar Port which reportedly resulted in a loss of at least Rs 2,500 per ton in extra, unnecessary and unwarranted costs to the public exchequer. PSA has failed to make any investment in additional facilities at
Gwadar Port contrary to the tall claims at the time of award of the CA to PSA, it added.

Hafeez told the court that Balochistan government has also serious reservations over the GPA deal. He said it was a dispute between the two governments.
Reading out contents of the agreement, Pirzada contended that the agreement is contrary to the Constitution and the law, as GPA in its statutory capacity has not entered into agreement but the procedure was adopted by non-statutory body known as Gwadar Port Implementation Authority (GPIA).

The petition recalled that the Planning Commission, realising the deteriorating condition of
Pakistan s maritime industry, had constituted a Task Force on Maritime Industry on June 16, 2009 which after threadbare discussion recommended that the PSA be asked to provide a commercial business plan immediately. It had also stated that the CA had failed to generate any commercial shipping activity over the past one and a half years and therefore must be cancelled besides new arrangements be made with the involvement of the Balochistan government.

Courtesy: Business Recorder


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