Nov 15 - 21, 2010

While the Supreme Court of Pakistan is already seized of the matter relating to the Gwadar Port, the Balochistan Government has also decided to approach the apex court to challenge the agreement with Port of Singapore Authority handing them over the rights of running the Gwadar Port for a period of 40 years.

According to the reports, the provincial government would file the petition within a few days pleading that the said agreement which was inked by the Musharraf government against the national interests and was taken without taking the people of province into confidence should be terminated.

Earlier last week, a three-member bench of the Supreme Court headed by the chief justice, during preliminary hearing of a petition challenging the concession agreement between the Gwadar Port Authority and Port of Singapore Authority, had directed the Secretary Ports and Shipping and legal representative of Port of Singapore Authority to file para-wise comments on the petition. Muhammad Zakir and others had filed a constitutional petition in the apex court naming the federation as a respondent and had prayed to court to annul, cancel, and strike down the agreement.

The petitioner who was represented in the court by the leading lawyer Abdul Hafeez Pirzada had prayed that the agreement dated Feb 6, 2007 between Gwadar Port Authority and PSA be cancelled and the federal government GPO be directed to resume possession, operation, and management of the Gawadar Port and all its facilities. The counsel of the petitioner read out the contents of the agreement and contended that the agreement was contrary to the constitution and the law and against the interest of the country. He further stated that a task force was also appointed on maritime industry which has also submitted its report highlighting violations committed by the PSA which has failed to generate any commercial shipping activity during the last about two years. It must be cancelled and new arrangements should be made with the involvement of the Balochistan government.

It is a fact that the agreement with the PSA has failed to deliver. It has not come even near to the expectations. Despite the fact that the port has been functioning for the last about two years it has failed to attract any worthwhile commercial traffic. Strategically, Gwadar has immense potential. Located at the mouth of the Gulf, the port can be hub of the energy corridor linking the Gulf with central Asia and China. In fact, Gwadar has been described as jewel in China's String of Pearls strategic doctrine aimed at protecting the Middle Kingdome's energy and trade interests. But infrastructure such as roads and rail links, warehousing facilities, and storage facilities for oil and gas is sorely needed. China was a major investor in the project, but as was alleged, former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz gave away the contract to his favorites with transparent bidding. The matter needs to be resolved as Gwadar cannot be allowed to turn into a white elephant.