Gilgit-Baltistan: New Management At Sost Dry Port Amid New Agreements with China

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GILGIT (ET): A new management has taken over the affairs of Silk Route Dry Port Trust in Gilgit – Baltistan (G-B) where elections were held after almost five years.
As per the law, elections for key posts in the port trust are to be held every three years.
In the elections held last week, Zafar Iqbal was elected chairperson of the trust as he bagged 155 votes out of 281 votes cast, replacing Afsar. Iqbal is a bureaucrat who has also served as head of government-sponsored Northern Areas Transport Corporation (NATCO) for several years and turned it into a profitable venture. Darvesh Ali, on the other hand, followed with 119 votes for the same post.
Abdul Rauf has been elected vice chairperson while 11 directors were also elected.
Located in Sost town of Gojal valley, the importance of Silk Route Dry Port has doubled due to agreements signed recently by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in China for projects like a railway track connecting China with Pakistan via GB.
“It is a good omen that elections were finally held and a competent body came into existence,” said Fazal Rabbani, a trader from Sost, the last town before China’s border along Karakoram Highway [KKH].
“We are thankful for the confidence reposed in us by the voters and we will try to come up to their expectations,” the newly-elected chairman said in his victory speech.
Iqbal has announced to serve the port without any compensation and has asked others not to join his team if they cannot offer their services voluntarily.
More than 340 shareholders are registered voters, but many people could not exercise the right to vote as they were out of town. Each share starts from Rs10,000.
Also known as Sost Dry Port Trust, the building was constructed in 2005 with financial assistance from China. Due to heavy snowfall at Khunjerab top, trade with China remains suspended from December to May every year and the port remains deserted during that time.
The former chief executive of G-B, Mir Ghazanfar Ali became its first chairman who was replaced by Afsar, after a legal and political battle against the latter and his family in 2008.
Besides internal politics and non-professional handling of the port, Attabad Lake in Hunza has also affected Pak-China trade as more than 25 kilometers of KKH is still under water.
Rabbani, however, believes proper drainage of Attabad Lake will help restore the volume of trade with China that was once over a billion rupees per year but has plunged to about Rs250-300 million per year.

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