KARACHI: The Qasim International Containers Terminal (QICT) has violated the agreement with Port Qasim Authority (PQA) by appointing Indian officials at key posts through a foreign holding company without the approval of the Ministry of Interior (MoI). Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and PQA chairman Asad Rafi Chandna also failed to take any action against QICT senior officials Nusrat Khan, Aly Khan, Junaid Zamir and others for handing over control of the terminal to a foreign holding company with 75% shares without MoI clearance and allowing Indian officials’ appointment at this most sensitive location.
As per details, the CIJ Pakistan also informed the Chairman of Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) through complaint/ letter No. 165/CIJ/11/2018 dated November 12, 2018 regarding the above and specifically in terms of high security risk to our nation due to malpractice and illegalities of the subject accused persons including the officials of PQA, QICT Pakistan Limited, M/s DP World Group and others which also caused huge loss to the National Exchequer. SECP, in its reply through a letter vide reference No. CLD/CCD/Misc./C&Q/2016-6300 dated December, 4, 2018 issued with the stamp and signature of Mr. Khurram Shahzad, Assistant Registrar of Companies admitted that “in regards to the appointment of Indian nationals in the M/s Qasim International Container Terminal (QICT) Pakistan Limited, please be informed that the returns pertaining to the appointments has not yet been accepted by the concerned Registrar and the case has already been forwarded to Ministry of Interior (the “MOI”) for clearance. Further course of action will be decided after the receipt of the clearance from MOI.” SECP, in another letter vide reference No. CLD/CCD/Misc./C&Q/2016-7608 dated April 11, 2019 it accepted “the returns pertaining to the appointments of Indian nationals have not yet been accepted by the concerned registrar. Moreover, this office has already forwarded the case of appointment of Indian nationals and foreign companies having shares in subject company to Ministry of Interior (the “MOI”) for clearance.”
It is surprising that whereas SECP admits that they have not yet accepted returns pertaining to the appointments by the concerned registrar then under what law they have allowed operations of QICT to continue despite the fact that SECP has already acknowledged the irregularity of QICT whereas also admittedly clearance of MOI is pending as forwarded by SECP itself. Being a regulator, SECP is bound by law to deregister QICT Pakistan Limited immediately or at least halt the operations till such time that MOI gives its clearance/No Objection Certificate (NOC). Furthermore, if clearance is denied by MOI forthwith then the irregularities/damages caused by QICT Pakistan Limited in such period where SECP allowed its operations without MOI clearance would solely be laid upon SECP.
It is pertinent to mention here that Customs Today raised the issue and published a story titled ‘Illegal control of QICT by Indians without MOI clearance poses high security threat’ on January 14, 2019 and exposed that some directors of the holding company of QICT Pakistan Limited are Indians who have been handling Indian Ports in the past like Rizwan Sultanali Soomar and Devang Mankodi. After that coverage, the QICT reportedly changed its directors but the company did not get clearance from MoI for appointment of Indians at such a strategic place. It did not even get NOC from the PQA for giving 75% share to a foreign company which is a clear violation of the implementation agreement between both the companies.
As per Clause 4.2 (b) (Xii) of the Implementation Agreement (IA), “QICT shall so far as is material to this Agreement (a) at all times, maintain its corporate existence in compliance with the laws of Pakistan”. This shows that QICT did not maintain its corporate responsibility and violate the laws of the land. It could not give 75% share to a foreign company without MoI clearance. PQA chairman Asad Chandna also kept mum over the issue even after so much coverage by the media and did not take action against the QICT for giving 75% share to a foreign company without its NOC. Asad Chandna should have terminated license of the QICT for violating the agreement.
Experts say Port Qasim Authority is the regulator but is least bothered to check on the illegal activities of the terminal, adding that the private company has been allotted the terminal based on the terms and conditions mentioned in the Implementation Agreement (IA) signed between Port Qasim Authority and the private terminal. According to the very basic spirit of the Implementation Agreement, the terminal at Port Qasim is supposed to abide by the law of the land while cannot diverge from the rules laid down under the law.
Importers claim that these high-ups of PQA and QICT work hand in glove to allow illegal activities at the terminal as they shut their eyes and appointed Indians who reportedly carried out clearance of dangerous materials and restricted goods and allowed control of the terminal to a foreign company without MoI clearance. Ports are highly sensitive and strategic assets of Pakistan which cannot be given in the hands of nationals of an arch rival. With such management holding of Indians, electronic data and sensitive information like in and out movement at the Port and other classified information of Pakistan can always be shared with India. It’s time the SECP and the PQA take action against the QICT to avoid any big mishap in Pakistan due to control of a strategic asset by Indians.
Besides, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has already taken action on the issue and authorised enquiry against the QICT in country’s biggest ports and shipping scandal involving 400 billion rupees. Importers hope that the NAB would soon take legal action, recover amounts looted, arrest the accused to set an example and stop further losses in the biggest mega scam case.
The views expressed by the writer are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of Customs Today. We invite all relevant parties to any specific story to send their version/stance to us with valid justifications & documents. [email protected]