Thu. Oct 29th, 2020

op-Ed: Lords of the Sost Port

by Ali al-Hakim

Zufliqar Ali, a Pamir Times volunteer community journalist, recently interviewed a Sost woman who had participated in the April 24th protest against corruption in the SDP, and it is posted on the Pamir News Blog website.  This brave and wonderful middle-aged woman vividly describes the voluntary efforts of the people of Gojal in constructing the building of the Dry Port. She says that men and women were filled with enthusiasm when the Dry Port project was inaugrated by Gen. Pervez Musharraf. All people were optimistic that this initiative would open up opportunities, not only for flourishing local businesses but also it could have triggered a process of job creation, and profitable return on investment made by individuals, village and women organizations and others in the area.

Nothing of that sort happened for the past one decade. Instead people watched, right in front of their eyes, that Mir and his family systematically and gradually installed themselves as the Lords of the Dry Port.

People’s patience and tolerance for these shameless violations of their just rights finally came to blows on April 24th. This was a popular uprising, though on a small scale, yet it clearly demonstrated the surge in popular opinion against two diseases that have systematically infected our society: corruption and injustice. The intrepid people of Hunza have now blazed a new path which all of us must, now, follow; they have shown us a path that leads to registering our legitimate concerns and raising our voices to be heard: these idealists concerned with upholding our traditional values of justice, trust, honour and fair-play have got to go down as our heroes of our generation. 

In a bid to save his interests Ghazanfar wrote this rather carelessly drafted letter to the President of Pakistan, demanding him to interfere in the affairs of the SDP. In that letter he has invoked the idea of Sino-Pak relationship and possible deformities it may suffer as a result of the turmoil in Sost. He suggests that the occupation/takeover of the port by the new management may jeopardize Sino-Pak relations.  This is absolutely senseless and, possibly, counter-productive. It is a tactic to mislead the government of Pakistan and create apprehensions in the highest policy-making circles.

It is illogical because the People’s Republic of China is a nation known for patience and also it is also a country known for upholding the idea of supremacy of the public opinion over the whims of oppressing individuals. Chairman Mao is remembered in history for standing against the decadence of the Chaing-Kai Shek regime and his oligarchs. China is founded on a revolutionary sentiment of people. China knows its values and it has always supported and pursued goals of supporting people’s power over those of dictators and powerful and ruthless individuals.

There should be no bewilderment on the part of the people of Hunza and the new management vis-à-vis China, because PRC is not interested in interfering in other’s problems in the first place,  and even if it chooses to interfere then China will raise its voice for the sentiment and will of the people.

Secondly Ghazanfar in his letter carelessly uses an ominous word ‘miscreants’ for the women, children and men who have taken over Sost port to register their protest and demand their legitimate rights. The word evokes dangerous memories when it comes to Pakistan’s integrity. When used to describe or characterize popular will of the people living in a sensitive border area, it may create resentment and suspicion. At least, on this world alone Ghazanfar should have been careful.  Furthermore, instead of championing the cause of the people who elected him in the last elections, he is trying to secure his own and his son’s crumbling interests. It is time now that people of Hunza should alert themselves to self-serving people like Ghazanfar and his cohorts. While the people of Sost along with others in the wider Hunza region have captured the moral high-ground, however it remains to be seen as to who will be ultimately vindicated: the people or the family of the Mir.

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The writer is a student of London School of Economics. He belongs to the Hunza valley.

5 thoughts on “op-Ed: Lords of the Sost Port

  1. I agree with Al Hakim.

    that the two diseases; corrpution and injustice has entered the bone marrow of our society.

    I agree with ideals of Mao, but as a frequent traveler to this part of China, however with capitalism making strong inroads into China,the notions of corruption, greed and mafiosi is the same as we see on the other side of the border. At least here there is a balance in trade!

    While it is encouraging that the ‘people’, especially the civil society in the Northern Areas is slowly waking up to many injustices, but we should be AWARE of the hi-profile vested interests, on all sides of the Dry Port spectrum, from petty officials to public representatives to those who ‘still’ monitor transparency in public sector funding, not reserved for the ‘lords only’ in this forbidden and foresaken land; as they say ‘ais hamam mey sab nangey hai’.

    My only worry is with the change in government in Pakistan and sentimental change in public emotions, is it a real change to protect peoples rights? OR is it a realignment of vested interests, right from the petty officials and ‘hidden hands’ in Sost upto KANA and beyond, to create a ‘new pattern’ camuflaged in ‘peoples rule’, resulting in continued and further cementing of the exploitation of the poor’ shareholders’??

    Who is fighting who? Do we know the real hands?

    There is an African saying:

    ‘When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers’.

    Even when two elephants make marry, it is still the grass that suffers!!

    Bottomline:

    SRDPT: You need honest, transparent and committed leadership (both political and at the trust level) to inspire and continue to mobilize the masses and YOU need professional management to run the Port and the partnership on profitable basis and as equal partners.

    If you don’t produce this, more chaos, more loss

    Amin Beg

  2. I fully agree with Al Hakim and Amin Beg.

    At least this the high time for the trustees to come forward and play their role. Otherwise the interests of the poor land owners and those who had made cash contributions will be lost and more bad things could come out of this as the viruses of CORRUPTION in INJUSTICE has swallowed everything in our society.

    May Allah help the poor against the evils of injustice and corruption of today.

  3. I agree with al hakim and amin beg about corruption and injustice. these are viruses like eating our body. we should get treatment from good political doctors. but what kind of medicine should be used, and who should be consulted. i think sometimes bad disease require operation as well. it means that we will have to use violent methods to make our society healthy as well.
    however one good thing is that hunza people are now becoming educated. they do not really need tough methods to achieve their goals.

  4. Mr. Amin Beg has rightly pointed out the realignment of vested interest in sost dry port. From the day first when this issue has taken hot seat on Parim Times blog, the minority educated intelligentsias of Hunza who have access to internet were trying to put forward their sentiments, compliments and opinions.

    Some time I feel i have different feeling from the peoples who were writhing and giving ideas on this site, this time I got the right comment from Amin beg which encouraged me to write on this perspective.

    Most of the time we were discussing the surface happenings, with out fully understanding the circumstances, the intentions of real players, and stack holders and all those hidden hands who are actively involved in the area.

    It a matter of concern and shocking for us to know that china government has listed 40 people from Hunza accused of involving in trade of contraband items like Drugs, endangered specious, and weapons. Currently 2 people from Hunza were in chinies jail and 2 were in Pakistani jail being accused of involving in drugs trade on chinies route. From this thing one can easily imagine how far we have gone and become wager in the hands of Mafia

    Does any one know the hands behind all this trade, even the accused do not know on whose behest they were working? Even the innocent people agitating there do not know, why there are agitating, and what fruit their struggle will bring, they have very limited agenda and interest, like the port should belong to them and some of them should be called Director, even though they have never managed a horde of donkeys.

    We are mostly commenting on the people’s right, the injustices being met them in the hand of Mir or so on… Have we ever tried to know what were the intentions, interests and objectives of the people to establish this port and bring Gazanfar to run the affair of the port?

    To make analysis of the point one has to go some 10 year back when the northern area administration initiated the idea of establishing dry port on silk rout. Due to its enormous economic opportunity the idea was welcomed by different segment and communities of the area. The first phase started with selection of site for the Dry port, all the people from Nager to sost offered their land for construction of port, three of them come prominent in the race, The people of Moorkun under the aspersions of KVO, the people of Nagar, and the people of Sost all of the one thing to offer that was the community land. All the three beneficiary submitted their proposals to the northern area administration and a tug of war stated between the communities for selection of there avenue which took four years till November 2001 for the administration to finalize the site.

    To win the tug of war the people of sost under disguise of pro- Muslim League group approached heavy weight Ghanfar to win the race. Who used his personal influence and contacts with local administration to win the selection of sost for Dry port avenue for which he has been offered by the sost people Chairmanship of the so called trust.

    A ghost trust without any registration and by-laws and manifesto was flared among the people and money was exhorted from every corner. The main propagatory machinery was used political affiliation and certain quarter of the society who have different political alienation have been marginalized.

    The trust was not registered and not capital pool in the name of trust was available to make joint venture share with Sino-trans Company who was officially awarded the contract for construction and operation of the port.

    So Mr. Ghanzafar hesitantly convinced the people of sost to transfer the 200 kanal port lands in his name so he could be able to sign partnership deed with Chinies Company. In 2002 in presence of Prim Minister Shouket Aziz and Chinies Ambassador an accord was signed at Islamabad. This was the first time the bell ringed and people voices against the mal-intention of Ghanzafar and his family and brought the matter in notices of Local and regional council. But that time things were going in right direction all the serious voices were labeled political difference and tried utmost to marginalize them.

    The voracious front men and local people were blind in offering every thing in the name of ghost trust. No one, infect no one was capable enough, to bothered and ask the real status of the trust and its management. Those who have understanding of the issue were no where heard in wilderness chores of vultures. The sense of political difference so much creped the minds of the people that all sensible vices fell on deaf hears, on the other hand divide and rule method remained effective tool in the hand of Ghanzafar for maneuvering around, from wining the election to collecting shares from Villages and Women Organizations, even they bruised the KVO for exhorting 1.6 million rupee from their TDR account.

    Getting shares and becoming member was such a fun fare that standing on road side people were purring money in the hand of “Chamcha’s ” and were believing that they were member of the Dry Port trust and will be getting benefit right at their door steps. It was interesting when one office bearer was offering shares in SDP as reward for different activities of different individuals. a receipt of amount were present to them.

    In 2005 the port came into operation, the income started generating Ghazanfar and his family started taking their share as hot cake, a hot line for transfer of money was established between Sost and Islamabad. Local people and the so called share holders patiently waited under the serving plates for a year that a miracle will happen and extract of serving fruit will drop in their mouth but nothing happened, people discreetly started demanding dividend and proof of their share and sort of skirmish started at the port level

    Ghanzafar found this a great opportunity to divide and rule and wipe out the remnants together with the evidence of any share from general public. He kicked out all the office bearers and front runners in port affairs alleging them of misappropriation and denying due rights to the people.

    Saleem khan made entry on the stage with tactful slogan of liberating the local peoples from the clutches of few Gulmitic youths, who were there to enslave the locals, Saleem khan was man of the day and forcefully took control of the port with the help of Landowners and paid tug from down who helped him wiping out the remnants and evidence of any claim from the people.

    The day when Saleem took control of the port, it was deemed a great victory for the Land owners and Ghazanfar family become they became the sole owner of the port, This was a set back to the front runners and devoted share holders as Ghazanfar declared that we have not received any share from any quarter and all the front men did at their own and we are not liable to any one. Saleem khan offered pity Directorship for 20,000 Rupees salary per month to the land owners for their services and dignity.

    When the share Holders regrouped and tried to annul the force accession of the port local people resisted them and took guard of the port for one week. Lot of skirmish and hide and sick went around.

    Arbitration committee at regional council level was constituted to sort out the issue all the time the land owners came in favor of the Ghazanfar and all popular demands were smashed. Ghazanfar got strength day by day, and in February 2007 registered a sole private limited company in the name of “Pak China Sost Dry port Private limited” and declared that the shares or pledges acquired by the so called Trust was were not liability of this company.

    At this position again the local people remained silent, all the front runners and front men’s one by one regrouped with Ghazanfar.

    So the change of heart this time is surprising and wondering why all of sudden they realized the mistakes and are in front to deliver to the locals or they are preparing another dish to serve some another MIR

  5. GOOD TAJU VERY GOOD ENDORSEMENTS IN THE LIGHT OF HISTORICAL BACKGROUND WITH GOOD ANALYSIS AND FOR CASTES———

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