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EPZ to boost defence exports

Balochistan as a whole can be developed as future Arms Manufacturing Base of Pakistan

Nov 27 - Dec 03, 2000

The first ever international defence exhibition recently held at Karachi under the title of 'IDEAS 2000' believed to be the brainchild of the Chief Executive Gen. Pervez Musharraf has opened attractive avenues for massive investments from the private sector in the field of traditional defence production in Pakistan.

Echoes of the exhibition, a brilliant idea for aggressive and effective salesmanship, were received across the globe with varying reactions. Recently, the official reaction of the United States imposing certain sanctions against Pakistan in fact endorses the capability of Pakistan for producing quality defence productions. The Chief Executive has rightly identified the defence production area for augmentation of our exports.

In order to know how the private sector feels about IDEAS 2000, PAGE had a special session with Sheikh Javaid, Chairman Export Processing Zones' Investors Council to discuss the participation of the private sector in defence production.

Sheikh Javaid, really excited about the prestigious occasion of 'IDEAS 2000' came out with the remarks that the uncalled for restrictions imposed by the developed world against Pakistan have proved to be the blessings in disguise by making Pakistan self-reliant in quality defence productions. The IDEAS 2000 has infused feelings to be proud of being Pakistanis, he observed.

One feels elevated with a pleasant surprise of the tremendous achievement in the field of manufacturing light and medium type weapons. The occasion has given strong messages to the nation and also to the international community that Pakistan is not only self sufficient in producing light and medium type weapons but has the capacity to export the same to the international buyers. It also disproved the clamouring foreign media generally painting a horrible picture about the law and order situation in Karachi. The foreign visitors observed by them selves how conducive atmosphere the city of Karachi offers for investment. Sheikh Javaid endorsed the remarks of finance minister Shaukat Aziz that despite the fact that Karachi holds the position of an attractive investment point it remains one of the most unsold cities of the investment world.

Sheikh Javaid having special interests for rapid developments of export processing zones at the strategic locations of the country feels such exhibitions can attract massive foreign investment if the proposed export processing zones at Gawadar and other coastal areas of Balochistan are chosen as the venue for next exhibitions. The idea can be sold to investors in Arm manufacturing sector to invest in Export Processing Zones.

Unfortunately, the existing EPZ unit has failed to attract its major objective i.e. foreign investment, Hi-tech and transfer of technology, and sufficient employment opportunities. Under the circumstances, as well as security reasons at the existing zone, we badly need to change our policy for establishment of EPZ units in future. The coastal cities of Balochistan, despite having enormous potential for investment and boosting up our exports are so far not fully exposed to the foreign investments. These future Units are needed to be designed in a manner that availability of all the required infrastructure required for producing weapons or components were ensured.

Sheikh Javaid feels that the EPZ units can play a vital role in producing and marketing our defence productions the world over if zones area developed exclusively with this idea. The prospective investors may be allowed to enjoy the package of incentives unprecedented in other industrial areas of the country.

Pakistan is right on the crossroads today hence great responsibilities lie on our policy makers to successfully bail out the country from economic crisis. The policy makers in the past had almost ruined the economy especially the industrial sector reflected in every third unit relegated to the status of a sick unit. One of the major causes for disaster was the wrong location policy by completely ignoring Balochistan, the largest province of the country. Plenty of land lying wasted in Balochistan should have been used for industrial investments instead of disturbing the agricultural lands in the provinces with agriculture stakes. This would have saved the cherished agricultural lands in the province of Sindh and Punjab on one hand and served the poverty alleviation objectives in Balochistan.

The coast of Mekran is still waiting for potential entrepreneurs who could invest in the neglected region of the country. Much has been said on the issue but a very little has been done, Sheikh Javaid regretted.

Having a wide exposure in export processing zones, Javaid feels that ports like Gawadar, Pasni and Ormara have the tremendous potential to become the hub of economic activity in this region. The export oriented industries and the trade can bring about a visible change in the socio-economic life of that province as well as of the country. Taking a lead from the success of IDEAS 2000, Shaikh Javaid suggests that Balochistan as a whole can be developed as future Arms Manufacturing Base of Pakistan which would naturally enlarge the export base of Pakistan. A cherished economic goal of Pakistan.