USC chief fails to justify timeline of dodgy tender for purchase of dates?

Zulqiurnain Khan says he is unaware of tender for purchase of 1,000 metric ton dates |Disconnects phone line when asked about possible corruption in Rs140m tender

By: Maqbool Ahmad      Published: 12:46 AM, 18 Apr, 2020
USC chief fails to justify timeline of dodgy tender for purchase of dates?
USC Chairman Zulqiurnain Ali Khan talks to Rehan Tariq, host of '10 Takk' programme on 24NewsHD TV.

Utility Stores Corporation (USC) Chairman Zulqiurnain Ali Khan on Friday failed to answer questions about a tender the corporation has floated to purchase 1,000 metric ton dates from the local market or abroad for the upcoming month of Ramazan.

Rehan Tariq, host of the ‘10 Takk’ programme on 24NewsHD TV, called into question the corporation’s decision to float the tender too late. He said the USC floated the tender on April 14, set April 30 deadline for submission of the tender and the tender would open on May 5 (11th of Ramazan-ul-Mubarak). He said that opening the tender on 11th of Ramazan-ul-Mubarak means these dates would reach the marked after Eid-ul-Fitr.

When asked to comment on the timeline of the tender, Zulqiurnain said he had been stuck abroad for one-and-a-half months and he just resumed his duty on Friday. He said that dates for Ramazan had already been imported and they were available in the market. He said he was not even aware of the tender, which the corporation has floated for purchase of 1,000 metric ton dates for Ramazan. He said the word imported was included in the tender because dates were not available in the local market in the required quantity. He said that imported dates are sometimes even cheaper than the local dates. He said the timeline given in the tender was wrong and dates should have been in the market by now. He said he would talk to the right persons, the GM and the MD, about the timeline of this tender.

Answering a question about crystal packing of the dates to be imported, the USC chief said it means that packing should be transparent so that the product can be seen inside clearly.

About the impression that Zulqiurnain is the owner of Saudi Arabia-based companies Nawat Al Madinah Dates & Food Company and Zultec Group, he said Nawat Al Madinah was owned by a Saudi group, he was the owner of Zultec Group. He said all big stores in Pakistan are his clients, but his company does not sell any product to the Utility Stores Corporation. He said since he was chairman of the USC, his company would not sell anything to the corporation keeping in view the conflict of interest. A few minutes later, Zulqiurnain said he did not have a ‘direct link’ with Nawat Al Madinah, implying that he had indirect link with the company.

Answering a question about possible corruption in import of dates worth Rs110 million to Rs140 million, Zulqiurnain said it was a useless discussion and disconnected the phone line.

Maqbool Ahmad

The writer is a seasoned journalist.