Interview with Mr. Ismail Suttar – CEO, Hub Pak Salt Refinery
PAGE: Tell me something about yourself and your organization, please:
Ismail Suttar: I am currently working as the CEO of Hub Pak Salt Refinery. I am also Member Board of Directors of Employers’ Federation of Pakistan and Chairman of the EFP Economic Cell. I also represent the Lasbela Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Hub, Lasbela, Balochistan on the Executive Committee of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) and recently elected as its Vice President.
The Employers’ Federation of Pakistan is a representative of the business community to the government and other local and international bodies who are stakeholders for the industries of Pakistan. We are the only Employers constituent from Pakistan of ILO and recently signed a partnership with the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council so our members will directly interact with investors across all Commonwealth economies. We regularly engage with the business community on different fronts such as training, seminars, and pushing for reforms to the government. We collectively address problems encountered by the business community. Recently we have established the EFP Economic Council. The objective of the Council is to develop linkages with local and international institutions to conduct research and produce findings that benefit business practices and open up new avenues for investment in Pakistan. It will also study the underlying gaps in the industrial networks and the trust deficits between the government institutions and business community and will conduct sessions where they will meet to discuss their reservations and remove roadblocks.
PAGE: Give your views on the Pakistan Day festivities in Naya (new) Pakistan?
Ismail Suttar: There have been some unique additions to Pakistan Day festivities in recent years. Besides gathering with the family in public spaces such as parks and monuments, the youth have also resorted to activities which have a positive social and environmental impact. These festivities include tree plantation drives, painting the walls, doing photo walks, conducting open entertainment events where they present music, poetry and comedy. They garner support for such events and make sure people attend by creating a hype on social media and they are all present on social media so that makes it easy for them to do this.
My view is that the tide is moving in a positive direction. There was a time the energy and motivation in the public for creating impact had become so depressing in Pakistan that most people treated Pakistan Day as a holiday to relax at home. This renewed energy, also owing to the improved security situation in public spaces, brings hope and confidence.
PAGE: Could you tell me about the patriotism in Pakistan after the recent skirmishes between Pakistan and India?
Ismail Suttar: The attitude of Pakistan at all levels, from the public to the government officials, to the news channels, the celebrities, and the Armed Forces, has been incredible. Pakistan has, unfortunately, seen very few such waves of unity where, despite all differences, the country stood together with one stance. Where on one hand we saw Indian media spewing hatred and anger-jingoism, Indian actors calling for war, Pakistan promoted peace and constantly reiterated the devastating reality that wars bring. There was no display of aggression except for the sake of defense.
The patriotism scenario escalated in both India and Pakistan. However, patriotism alone is not enough. It matters how you express that patriotism. If your patriotism is about propagating peace, unity, and acceptance than that is what the country needs. However, if that patriotism is expressed in the form of hate for another country, that is problematic. The boost in national energy which Pakistan experienced was positive. It was exactly what the country needed. One of the reasons for that is the new leadership who approached the situation positively and initiated that narrative. On the other hand, people responded to it in a way that they have never done before. This new wave of patriotism is what you can call Naya Pakistan.
PAGE: How does the business community celebrate the Pakistan Day?
Ismail Suttar: Pakistan Day is a celebration which goes beyond the boundaries of business community and extends to friends, family, and public spaces as I said before. So the business community engages in it on the same lines as everyone else. We do take some time out to reflect on how we can contribute to the growth of this country even better than before. I think it is always important to stop and reflect on what difference you are making to your community. For the country, this impact is not limited to generating output for the GDP. Thousands of employees take home their incomes and raise their families well because an investor decided to put in some money into a project, once upon a time. Job creation and ensuring welfare at work is also a building block of the country’s well-being. With great power comes great responsibility and we must keep looking at opportunities to expand our horizons because we can afford to take calculated risks. There are very few people in this country who can afford to do that. Not only will that contribute to the country’s economic progress, but it also indirectly alleviates poverty and encourages hope. That well-being is the crux of avoiding conflict and building a prosperous society.
PAGE: What needs to be done to ameliorate the economy of Pakistan?
Ismail Suttar: If you look at the evolution of Pakistan across 70 years and zoom out, you will notice one thing. There is agriculture dominating the economy and then there is a sudden boom in the services. Besides textile, the growth in industry is not very consistent or strong. Same is the case for social development. The growth in GDP did not translate into prosperity as much as it should have. So clearly the wealth that was created was pulled out from the economic cycle and taken somewhere else. That brings us to two major points. The industrial infrastructure, and transparency. Until and unless we improve the governance structures and create accountability, the inefficiency will prevail and the wealth that is created will be taken out from the economic cycle to fill the pockets of people who are not supposed to be enjoying it. This will also remain an obstacle for the industrial development because that requires an up gradation in its systems to run smoothly and profitably.
Our infrastructure is in a poor state. We need more partnerships and projects to improve basic infrastructure and accessibility which does not only include roads and transport but also electricity and the internet. That is the only way we will be able to compete with the world.
PAGE: Do you presume the image of Pakistan has ameliorated in the world?
Ismail Suttar: Yes. It is a slow process and there will always be a difference of opinion but it is manifesting positivity. Pakistan was under shade for reasons of security and corrupt governance. Both the factors have shown improvement. The new leadership is doing a superb job at identifying and curbing corruption at different levels. It’s a tiresome process but consistent efforts can clean up the system.
This has helped narrow the trust deficit many foreign investors had about Pakistan. The economic prospects of the coming years have been reported as positive and people are hopeful. This hope attracts investment and partnerships. Moreover, the security situation has improved tremendously and has enabled many new initiatives. Foreign cricket players, footballers, and other sports personalities have come to Pakistan. Partnerships with large economies and Pakistan’s consistent stance of peace in the recent events with India has been a major moving factor for the improvement.
As far as terrorism is concerned, we are witnessing many different forms of it across the world. In today’s time of the internet and technology, you cannot blame or target any one country for terrorist events. These organizations are connected with different people across the globe and these events are not restricted to a religion or community as we have all seen lately. This understanding has also contributed in taking the burden of blame off the shoulders of Pakistan. My message for 23rd March is that for all 225 million citizens, it is always Pakistan First.