The simmering tensions among members of the Hyderabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (HCCI) erupted again after a lull of around a year with the postponement of elections on Saturday.
The Businessmen Panel accused the Tajir Dost Panel, which is currently holding the office, of deliberately delaying the elections for fear of defeat.
Six Corporate Class and six Associate Class seats were up for grabs in the elections scheduled for September 22, but these were delayed when a member of the HCCI filed a petition in the Sindh High Court, Karachi, seeking a stay order which the court granted on September 20. The petitioner claimed that there were bogus entries in the electoral list and asked the court to order its correction.
The postponement was announced in the nick of time on Saturday morning when a number of members had gathered at the HCCI Secretariat to cast their votes. A press release was also issued after the start of balloting time, which sparked protests from supporters of the Businessmen Panel against the sudden suspension.
The HCCI holds elections annually on 12 out of 24 seats, divided equally between Corporate and Associate classes. Members are elected for a term of two years.
A total of 1,382 members, including 149 in the Corporate Class and 1,233 in the Associate Class, were eligible to cast vote this year. Two groups of businessmen – Tajir Dost Panel and Businessmen Panel – had fielded their candidates.
“They were afraid of losing elections,” alleged Ameen Khatri, Chairman of Businessmen Panel, while talking to The Express Tribune. “This is a time-buying tactic so that they can buy off some votes.”
Khatri claimed that the petitioner was a supporter of HCCI President Seth Goharullah, who led the Tajir Dost Panel. The petition has been filed by owners of AS Auto Industries.
When approached, HCCI spokesman Mukhtiar Beg confirmed that the HCCI, being a respondent, had received a court notice but said he did not know the petitioner’s name.
Altaf Memon of the Businessmen Panel pointed out that their opponents sought to keep a majority of corporate seats by reducing the number of members in the class. “The issue of bogus entries cited by the petitioner is what we have always been hearing from them (Tajir Dost).”
Members of the Corporate Class are multinational and public limited companies and businesses with annual turnover of at least Rs50 million. In the Associate Class, any business having the national tax number (NTN) can be the member.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Tajir Dost Panel Chairman Emad Siddiqui ducked queries about bogus entries. “The matter is sub judice. The court has sought replies on September 26,” he said.
The holding of elections depended on the court’s order, he said, but denied that the petitioner was a supporter of his group, saying he did not even know his name.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2012.
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