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Exports of defence products

Pakistan has finalised 2 accords for sale of arms produced by POF worth 40 million US dollars

From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI,
 Islamabad
Feb 26 - Mar 04, 2001

In its efforts to promote the export of non traditional items, the present government of Gen. Musharraf has rightly identified and focused attention on export of defence products. During the current month Pakistan has finalised 2 accords for sale of arms produced by Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) worth 40 million US dollars.

The Malaysian defence delegation led by its Defence Minister come to Pakistan during the first week and visited the Pakistan Ordnance Factories, Wah and examined the entire range of POF products and appreciated the standard and the accuracy of various arms and ammunition being produced. On the conclusion of the visit of the Malaysian defence delegation, two agreements were signed for the sale/purchase of defence equipment worth $20.9 million.

An official announcement, which gave no detail of the defence equipment or its total value, said that the two agreements were signed by senior officials of the Ministries of Defence of Pakistan and Malaysia. But a foreign news agency quoting Malaysia's Barnama news agency said that Malaysia was purchasing missiles and other weapons worth 79.4 million ringget (20.9 million) from Pakistan. The weapons include anti-tank weapons system costing 30.8 million ringget and surface-to-air missiles costing 48.6 million ringget. Later in the second week of the current month, Pakistan offered a 20 million dollars loan to Sri Lanka for the purchase of military hardware to help her in her battle against Tamil Tiger rebels. The credit line was offered during a visit earlier this month by Pakistan's army chief of staff, Mohammad Yusaf Khan, and head of military intelligence Ehsanul Haq, an official announcement said.

Besides meeting the 100 per cent demand of Pakistan army's conventional arms and ammunition and partially catering to the needs of Pakistan Navy and Air Force, POF has been exporting arms to many countries of the world for the past many years. However the first ever Pakistan International Defence Exhibition named as "IDEAS 2000" held in Karachi in November last year provided the real momentum. It opened a new chapter in the history of defence production industry in Pakistan as it formally entered into the era of commercialisation. The exhibition was visited by over 1000 foreign guests including 22 defence ministers, chief and deputy chief of staff and services chiefs.

Briefing newsmen on this occasion the chief coordinator of the exhibition, Maj. Gen. S. Ali Hamid had said that this exhibition would create an awareness of Pakistan's defence manufacturing capabilities amongst foreign countries while it would help Pakistan to invigorate commercial and business activity. Gen. Hamid further explained that the very strong positive response to IDEAS 2000 visible from high profile composition of the delegations from 34 countries and the interest shown by the exhibitors clearly indicates their interest in our country and the status Pakistan enjoys in the world.

Giving details about the development of Pakistan's Arms industry he said, that until 1970 Pakistan focused on meeting basic requirement of small arms, ammunition, repair and overhaul of equipment. During 1970-1990 Pakistan upgraded its major weapon system like Tanks, Ships, Aircraft and Radar etc. From year 2000 onwards Pakistan is expanding into the International Market by providing incentive to the private sector to enter defence manufacturing sector. The exhibition would not only boost Pakistan's defence exports but would also enhance the country's image on the economic front, he added.

Although the capability of the 13 selfcontained units of POF, manned by a workforce of 30,000 can well be gauged from the country's defence might, it has helped build. The perception of its strong export potential is based on the reputation it has established with discriminating buyers in the world market for its exclusive range of high quality products, including, besides ammunition, engineering goods and small and slightly heavier arms. On its increasingly successful export performance, as seen in the sale of its surplus defence products to not only some of the Middle East countries, but also expending beyond to Europe, Africa, the Far East and reaching as far as the United States, Pakistan has attained a distinguished position among the reliable exporters of a number of high quality defence industry products.

The happy tidings of opening of the doors of defence production and export to the private sector, as given by Pakistan Ordnance Factories Chairman Lt. Gen. Abdul Qayyum in his address to the members of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Karachi, should mark the addition of a new dimension to result-oriented private-public partnership. Coming at a time when the industrial excellence of POF has earned recognition from those who count in the production of arms and ammunition and other requirements of the defence forces anywhere, it is also an acknowledgment of the business expertise and acumen of the private enterprise in Pakistan. Finally abandoned now is that senseless, outdated policy under which for reasons other than their capability to handle it on purely commercial lines, private entrepreneurs were kept at a distance from this sensitive and sophisticated industry. It will also be noted, however, that the exceptional performance of POF, both in terms of quality and economic viability, has discounted the exaggerated perception of the public sector's total failure in all commercial ventures. For, not only have the sophisticated defence goods produced at the POF factories established their excellence at home but, to an considerable extent, outside the country also. However, now that POF has made its mark on the country's export front too to the extent of competing with the traditional suppliers of arms and ammunition from advanced countries, it has naturally felt the need of seeking cooperation of the private enterprise, for understandable reasons, in this challenging commercial endeavour.

Viewed in this perspective, POF's eyeing the international market for its products, will appear to be motivated by also ideas of availing of its capability to boost the country's export earnings. And this is not just a vague notion, but happens to be the logical corollary to the encouraging results of the initial efforts in that direction. An idea of the tremendous potential for Pakistan in the world trade of defence products may be had, among other things, from the interest evinced during Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf's recent visit to three Middle East countries. As it is, POF products have already found their way into some 10 countries of the world, thus setting the pace for further growth. It will also be noted that had it not been for the UN ban on export of arms to Libya and some other Muslim countries, the actual foreign sale of POF products would have risen much higher.