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Pakistan has attained a distinguished position among the reliable exporters of a number of high quality defence industry products

From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI,
 Islamabad

Mar 11 - 17, 2002

In its efforts to promote the export of non traditional items and attract foreign investment to some new but rewarding fields, the present government has rightly identified and focused on defence products and defence production.

Pakistan has been exporting conventional 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 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.

Although the capability of the 13 self contained units of Pakistan Ordnance Factories (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 expanding 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.

Last week Lt. Gen Abdul Qayyum Chairman of POF Wah, invited a big group of over 75 persons representing various countries including USA, China, Russia, European, Middle East and Far Eastern countries, big business and foreign and local journalists and demonstrated the high professional standard the POF has achieved in defence manufacturing capabilities and the high quality of its product. Briefing them the Chairman POF said that Pakistan would welcome joint ventures and collaboration in the defence production sector.

As often stated by Lt. Gen. Abdul Qayyum in his speeches on various occasions, POF has been meeting nearly the entire needs of the Pakistan Army, and to a considerable extent, of the Pakistan Army, and to a considerable extent of the Pakistan Navy and Air Force too. It has also been catering to the country's defence needs in a wide range of other products, such as tungsten, carbides products, acids., chemicals and commercial explosives, besides anti-tank missiles. As far as its commercial achievements, these should become all the more distinguishable from the fact that besides ensuring self-sufficiency of the Army in conventional weapons, it has succeeded in eliminating import of various segments of the nation's defence forces to the extent of as much as Rs. 9 billion, comparing favourably with allocation for POF in the national budget. As such, its eyeing the international market will appear based on ideas of availing of its capability to boost the country's export earnings. An idea of the tremendous potential for POF products may be had from the keen interest evinced in these during President Pervez Musharraf's visits to three Middle East countries last year.

Gen Qayyum's offer of joint ventures in defence production in other countries is certainly a morale boosting message to the nation. As stated by him, Pakistan has acquired eastern and Western technology in defence production and is thus uniquely placed to produce diversified extensive range of military hardware of both eastern and western origins. Pakistan, therefore, has the edge on many other countries, engaged in defence production of weapons of only one origin. It must, therefore, go for aggressive marketing for the joint ventures in other countries, in view of the urgent need to strengthen national economy. Pakistan, has of course, gained good experience in the production of light training and reconnaissance aircraft, tanks, APCs and other conventional arms and ammunition matching the NATO, Europe, US and China standards.

It is a matter of satisfaction that the surplus capacity of defence production is being utilised for commercial purposes including exports to help boost the country's economy. This is in line with the international trend, as is evident from last year's total international trade of 54 million dollars in arms and ammunition. Pakistan is already exporting its surplus defence production to about 40 countries including the Middle East nations. The fact of the matter is that the export of weapons has emerged as the most lucrative trade in modern times and the defence production sector can play a major role in steering the country out of its foreign debt trap. It will, however, be imperative that while going for exports, Pakistan must retain its potential and offensive defence capability to maintain its capacity and capability to neutralise any threat to its sovereignty and territorial integrity.