SECURITY THREATS TO PAKISTAN

KANWAL SALEEM (feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Feb 8 - 14, 2010

Pakistan, being a frontline state in the war against terrorism, has not only suffered over 35 billion dollars losses but its economy is still facing jolts due to deteriorating security situation. There is decline in foreign investment and local investment climate is also poor.

Particularly, industries in the troubled areas of NWFP as well as Balochistan have suffered serious blows of military actions against militants.

Experts believe that security situation is a major threat to national economy. Poor law and order situation and energy deficiency caused a negative 8.2 percent growth in large scale manufacturing in fiscal year 2009, in contrast to positive four percent in FY08.

The personnel of army and other law-enforcing agencies are playing heroic role in eliminating the menace of terrorism. However, it is deplorable that the international community has not reciprocated accordingly to help the country in its capacity building of its law enforcement agencies as well as revitalizing its economy which was badly affected mainly due to terrorism.

Statistics show that as many as 2,072 persons including law enforcement agencies' personnel embraced martyrdom while 6,253 injured in 1,780 incidents of terrorism across the country during the last 10 months. The terrorist attacks included 80 suicide attacks in which 775 persons were killed and 1,975 were injured. About 284 attacks on law enforcement agencies (LEAs) claimed 242 lives and caused injuries to 564.

Similarly, 164 bomb blasts reported during the period knocked down 240 persons and caused injuries to 961. About 225 hand grenade explosions claimed 26 lives while injuring 500 people. Likewise, 435 explosions caused death of 338 people, while 1,171 persons were injured.

About 369 rocket attacks claimed 103 lives and injured 436 others. Similarly, 32 missiles fired by terrorists killed 38 persons and injured 80 others. As many as 102 persons were killed in 145 mine explosions and 199 others were injured.

Although, in order to curb the terrorist activities the government has taken a number of steps including special training courses for capacity building of law enforcement agencies, but lack of resources is major constraint to enhance capacity of law enforcement agencies to counter the menace of terrorism.

EXHAUSTING ENERGY

Economic experts said that Pakistan had been facing an unprecedented energy crisis since the last few years. Its energy needs are likely to be doubled in the next decade as energy consumption in Pakistan is extremely high with various sectors such as agriculture, industrial, commercial etc. consuming high levels of energy. The power sector is consuming about 33.1 per cent of the total produced crude oil and 37.2 per cent of gas, coming from 173 gas fields operating in the country.

Electricity is generated mainly through hydel and thermal sources, with sixteen independent power producers functioning and about 12 rental power plants on the way.

Installed hydropower generation capacity of Tarbela, Ghazi Barotha, Mangla, Warsak, and Chashma dams is 6,500 megawatt.

It may be noted that Pakistan prepared an energy security plan (2005-2030), which forecasted a sevenfold increase in total primary consumption and an over eightfold increase in the requirement of power over the next twenty five years.

The need is to exploit all possible alternate sources of energy. The disturbing factor is that businessmen are shifting their business to other parts of the country due to poor law & order situation and deepening crises of energy, a businessman told this scribe.

In an interview with Page during his recent visit to Lahore, leading industrialist and former president of Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), S.M. Muneer, said he had seen no chances of respite from the adversarial economic constraints before July this year.

He expressed his optimism that national economy would back on track, as things were moving in right directions and with the grace of Allah Almighty and sacrifices of army and personnel of other law-enforcing agencies, law & order situation would be normalized very soon.

Muneer said the textile sector was the worst hit of unprecedented energy crisis, losing a billion rupees every month due to the idle capacities, making the exports targets unachievable for the current fiscal. "It would be difficult to achieve the export target fixed for the current fiscal," he said, adding: "However, the revenue targets are likely to be met with the efforts of the federal board of revenue."

When asked about rising cost of doing business in the country, he said, "We have no competitive edge over international competitors, as our exporters are facing more and more difficulties due to high cost of utilities as well as acute shortage of electricity and gas."

Muneer further said, "We really need to move very fast and enter into the competition before it's too late. No doubt, our textile industry is better than India.

But, its engineering sector is far better than ours'. IT industry in India is fetching billions of dollars revenue. Pakistan's IT industry is no doubt in good hands too, but a lot of hard work is needed to come to the level India has already achieved.

He said the industrialists had to suffer a lot due to load shedding. Without electricity the wheel of industry cannot run and if the industry is not running properly, we will suffer delay in export orders and also loss of production and ultimately loss of revenue to the government, he maintained.

Talking about inflation, he said no doubt it was very serious matter in Pakistan . Prices of edibles are increasing every day creating more and more difficulties for the poor people. He praised federal minister Shaukat Tarin for doing his level best to put the economy back on track.

S.M. Muneer, who is also former president of the Pakistan Tanners Association, said he was part of chief minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif delegation to Turkey where Pakistani businessmen bagged number of orders and discussed joint ventures due to aggressive role played by the Punjab chief minister.

He said Shahbaz Sharif pleaded strongly in front of the Turkish businessmen for favorable business environment in Pakistan and urged them to enter into joint ventures with Pakistani counterparts. Pakistan's investment scene is full of opportunities, leading to a situation securing foreign investment besides business activities.

There exists huge potential in Pakistan and with hard work, commitment, and devotion we can overcome any difficult situation, he asserted.