Revival of Officers Association

Officers Association Revival

I was having wonderful time at port Qasim. As a professional engineer I was quite happy. I had seen this place growing from nothingness, a kind of a virgin land with sand dunes and wild bushes all around and a place far from civilization, never inhabited by humans before, except for a handful of local people who were living in hatched hutments in subhuman conditions. Then I saw the first dedicated berth built exclusively for neighbouring steel mill which was also coming up fast simultaneously along with the port. The commissioning of four berths marginal wharf heralded a beginning of new era. A new port was born and was taking the shape of reality.

Reviving The Activities of Officers Association

On the social side also, I was happy to have found the company of many friends from the days of Petaro and Jamshoro.  One day a group of friends led by Abdul Sattar Bhatti, came to my office with a purpose. Sattar Bhatti was a student leader and had played active role in student politics. He told me that port Qasim officers had formed an association, but lately it was dormant and inactive. This group wanted me to revive the activities of association.  I told them that whereas I appreciated their concern, this kind of activity was not my cup of tea. But Bhatti insisted that I accept this as a challenge for the good of all officers.

General Body Meeting

The resolve of Bhatti was so strong that I couldn’t afford to say no to him. I couldn’t comprehend as to what did they find in me to lead them, but surely their resolve suggested that I was perhaps capable of doing it in their view. Accordingly, a general body meeting of officers was called and I was unanimously elected as President of Ad hoc committee. The objective of the committee was to revive association activities, hold fresh elections to choose the office bearers, and to run day to day affairs of association till holding of elections.

Dinner by Officers Association

As a first step I had to develop a rapport with the management. Admiral Waliullah had taken over the charge of Chairman from Admiral Ahsan. He welcomed us and assured us of his full support and cooperation. We started off with a dinner hosted by officers association, and all members of PQA board were invited.  During those days, members of the board were full time office bearers and were heads of their respective divisions namely, finance, technical, administration and operations. The ball was set rolling. I assigned the task of preparation for elections to Sattar Bhatti.

Soon after this development, we were confronted with two problems. Planning commission, government of Pakistan was seriously considering a move to convert a separate entity of Port Qasim Authority (PQA) into a port Qasim cell under the administrative control of Karachi Port Trust (KPT). There was strong lobby within KPT which was not in favour of parallel organization. This lobby had influenced the government machinery on the grounds that PQA would be a financial burden on national exchequer and that it was not financially viable to create a separate entity when all this could still be done through creation of a cell within KPT at minimal cost. 

Senate Committee

A senate standing committee on ports and shipping was tasked to evaluate the viability of PQA. Admiral Waliullah resisted this move and worked tirelessly to justify a new port set-up on the principles of private sector participation and its allied benefits, which hitherto couldn’t be done while remaining within the conventional system of KPT. His efforts were successful and the sword hanging on our heads was removed.

Presenting our case to the board members

Another problem which surfaced was revision of service rules regarding pension. Management was considering doing away with the system of pension and adopting the rules as in vogue in private sector. The matter was to be presented before PQA board for approval. This was not acceptable to us. We decided to form a committee comprising of Capt. Qurban Ali Arbab, Khalid Makhdoom and myself, to approach the management.

Chairman Meeting

We met the chairman and told him that our service rules should be similar to those of Karachi Port, so as to avoid anomalies and to be at par with it. The chairman agreed with us that we should be given an opportunity to put forward our case before the board. We then met Brig. Fazal Qadir, member technical who agreed in principle with us. We also met Mr. Ashiq Hussain, member finance. He appeared to be little skeptical but still assured us that he will further look into it after assessing the situation in the board.

Meeting for Abolition of Pension

On the day of board meeting, we were invited to present our case. We had also done our homework and collected relevant documents, and on that basis, we stressed the need for similar facilities and similar rules between the two ports under the same ministry. There was a little bit of resistance but majority of board members were convinced with our arguments. Our point of view was carried and the move for abolition of pension scheme was averted. Today we are reaping the fruit. Almost all officers who were in service at that time, have since retired and those who are still alive and kicking, are getting their pensions, some kind of financial support they can fall back upon.

Election of Officers Association

The major assignment of the ad-hoc committee was to hold elections of officers association. The officers were generally happy on the performance of ad-hoc committee particularly on the issue of pension scheme. This had generated interest within their ranks and when we started off with the election procedure, it was well received through active participation of all officers. I was under pressure to be a candidate and to continue to head the association, which I declined. Col G.Y. Siddiqui, general manager (administration) was elected as President, and Shahid Usman, manager (finance) was elected as general secretary. I was happy and content that I was relieved of these extracurricular activities. All is well that ends well.

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