Growing as a major export earner
April 01 - 07, 2002
The Afghan refugees, generally considered as a
burden on the economy of Pakistan, have contributed significantly for
economic growth as well by adding a new flavour to the hand-knotted
carpets produced in Pakistan.
The skill, the Afghan refugees have brought with
them, has added attractive Central Asian colours and designs to the
local carpet industry in Pakistan.
Resultantly, Pakistan's hand-knotted carpet
industry has started assuming a prominent role in the world market and
made a valuable contribution of around $300 million in the overall
exports of the country last year. It was for the first time that the
hand-knotted industry fetched such a respectable export figure in the
fiscal year 2001, said Yacoob H. Salehji, former chairman of
Hand-knotted Carpet Exporters Association.
Actually, this industry has progressively grown
during the last few years and the potential the industry has strongly
suggest that it will gain a respectable position after rice and
leather sector. Yacoob Salehji feels that time is not far away when
the hand-knotted carpet exports would be doubled to the extent of $600
million next three to four years.
Interestingly, this industry neither need any
imported raw material nor consumes electricity, which are generally
the basic requirements of other export based industries. Mostly, the
handlooms, which are used, for producing hand-knotted carpets are
located in the remote rural areas of Sindh, Balochistan, NWFP and
Recently, a private sector unit of 200 handlooms
has been set up in Chahchro near Islamkot, the heart of Thar Desert.
In order to provide technical assistance regarding
colour scheme and designing to this carpet-producing unit, a digital
telephone exchange has been set up in District Thar to give expert
advice to the workers through Internet.
Jacob Salehji says that this industry has
tremendous depth to enhance our exports as almost 100 per cent of the
carpets produced in Pakistan are exported. We have reached an export
level of $300 million while the total volume of the world's annual
exports is around $6 billion, which means that there is a great room
for improvement in this sector.
Salehji says that recently formed SMEDA bank can
really play a significant role in giving a boost to this
Primarily, the middle man who swallows the lion's
share out of the earnings of this industry runs the industry. The
skilled workers are generally work for the middle man who pockets a
major chunk of the earnings.
Pakistan is one of the world's largest producers
and exporters of fine oriental hand-knotted carpets. The beauty of
designs, excellent colour combination, craftsmanship and perfect
finish, Pakistani carpets have become renowned the world over.
Pakistani carpets are the favourite of consumers in
all major markets. The special characters of Pakistan carpets are that
they combine quality with a reasonable price. In the past owning a
carpet was the ultimate in luxury. But thanks to the improved knotting
technique, dyeing and finishing skill developed by Pakistani
craftsmen, even a man of average means can now afford a hand-knotted
With their exquisite craftsmanship, enhancing
patterns and mystical beauty, oriental rugs have fascinated and
dazzled viewers and owners the world over for centuries. Prized
possessions of kings and commoners, conquering heroes and fugitive
princes, they are the stuff dreams are made of — enchanting colours
woven into patterns of captivating beauty — flowers, tendrils,
mystical animals and geometrical designs that carry one to the world
of fairy tales.
Since the entire material used in carpet making is
produced locally hence it does not cost any sort of foreign exchange
on imports of raw material. Another advantage of this industry is that
unlike other manufacturing units, it does not consume electricity at
all because the entire system works manually.
The commodity is entirely made by hand-knot by knot
tried over months and sometimes years of painstaking labour. Bits and
pieces of yarn of different colours are tied to warp a process, which
creates both, pile and design. Most carpets have the traditional set
design handed down to the present from the hoary past. But what
distinguishes the oriental carpets from the run of the mill
machine-made variety is the inimitable style, warmth and beauty and
above all the individuality that the touch of human hands add to this
The areas forming Pakistan have historically been
the centres of carpet making in the South Asian Sub-Continent. The
ancient city of Lahore, which is a major centre of carpet
manufacturing, is a pertinent example. It occupied the same position
four hundred years ago when Mughal Emperor Akbar brought over some
carpet weavers from Iran to weave carpets in India.
Abul Fazl, author of "Ain'e akbari"
writes "His majesty has caused carpets to be made of experienced
workmen who have produced many master-pieces. The carpets of Iran and
Turan are no more thought of although merchants still import carpets
from Goskhan, Khuzistan, Kirman and Sabzwar. All kinds of carpet
weavers have settled in Lahore and drive a flourishing trade. These
are found in every town, but especially in Agra, Fathepur and
Lahore," writes Abul Fazl.
In the beginning only reproductions of Persian
originals were made, but over a period of time Lahore weavers
developed their own distinctive style, modifying the Persian designs
and motifs and adding local colours and flavour to them. Local motifs
and floral designs were also developed and used in carpets along with
the traditional Persian ones. The depiction of elephants or carnations
clearly showed local inspiration. Abul Fazl has written in detail
about Lahore as it developed during the Mughal period. In those days
very fine carpets were woven. Some of them having achieved as many as
200 knots to the square inch and the wool used was so fine that it
could pass for silk. So famous became the carpets from Lahore in those
days that one Richard Bell master had a carpet specially woven for him
in 1637 which was later presented to the company. This carpet is in
the possession of Girdler's company in London.
A reference may also be made to the famous Indus
Valley civilization, which flourished in Pakistani regions of Sindh
and Punjab some 5000 years ago.
Excavations at Mohenjo Daro and Harappa have
established that the Indus Valley people knew about the use of
spindles and spun a wide variety of weaving materials.
In fact some historians are of the view that it was
the Indus Valley civilization that for the first time developed the
use of woven textiles. The wall relief and terracotta figures
discovered at Mohenjo Daro show that not only shawls, but also floor
coverings like rugs were widely in use. It may well have been that it
is here that the art of carpet making first evolved and then spread to
neighbouring Central Asia.
Balochistan is Pakistan's largest province also
boasts of a carpet making tradition thousands of years old. The
Balochistan rug with its well-known geometrical motifs is the work of
a weaver who draws his inspiration from a long line of Caucasian
master craftsmen who made the design famous throughout history. In
Baloch carpets rich and somber colour tones are used with quality wool
of long and lustrous texture. In recent years Baloch carpets have been
increasingly exported from Pakistan.
The development of the art of carpet making is
closely linked to the progress of Islamic civilization as it achieved
unprecedented heights in Baghdad, Damascus, Cordova, Delhi, Lahore and
in the fabled cities of Central Asia. Wherever Muslim culture has
flourished, carpet weaving has received special patronage. Most of the
well-known carpet designs consisting of intricate patterns of flowers,
leaves, tendrils, scrolls, etc. developed under the cultural influence
in Islamic civilization which frowns upon the representation of
animals and human figures. References to carpet in Arabic and Persian
Literature are numerous. The palace of Caliph Haroon-al-Rashid is said
to have contained innumerable carpets.
Carpet making is basically a Muslim heritage and it
was one of the first crafts to come to this area with Islam.
Historians believe that carpet making was introduced to the region now
constituting Pakistan as far back as the 11th century with the coming
of first Muslim conquerors, the Ghaznavids and the Ghauris. Later the
Muslim Mughal Kings imported weaver and set up carpet making centres.
Lahore, Multan, Hyderabad in Pakistan and Agra, Mirzapur and Jaipur in
India became famous for their carpets. The profession has throughout
the basically Muslim in character. It was Muslim Kings who patronized
it and it was Muslim weavers who wove knots into designs and earned
name and fame beyond their own country.
TALIM AND NAQSHA
alim and Naqsha are two terms basic to carpet
weaving. Talim is coded script, which not only indicates the number of
knots to be tried per square inch but also the design and colour
scheme for the given carpet.
Talim is now increasingly being replaced by Naqsha
— a multi-coloured graph paper, which shows in detail the design of
the carpet as it, would look after completion. Naqsha has been
introduced recently to organize and facilitate new trainee weavers to
work independently to produce rugs economically and fast, maintaining
The carpet loom has a simple structure. It consists
of two crossbeams attached to two upright poles as far apart as the
width of the carpet desired to be made. Similarly, the length of the
carpet determines the distance between the lower and upper beams. The
beams are in the shape of rollers that can rotate in their fame. The
beam need not to be the full height of the carpet because the warp can
be wrapped round the upper beam and unwound as the carpet is wrapped
slowly round the lower beam. In making the new Pakistani product
horizontal as well as vertical looms are used.
Wool is the basic raw material for weaving
hand-knotted carpets, although cotton and silk are also used. The
better the wool, the finer the end product. Wool's special advantage
is its flexibility, durability and beauty. Its excellent absorbent
quality, wool imparts a deep, rich hue to colours. In its ability to
resist staining, wetting and burning wool is superior to all synthetic
fibers. Pashmina is the finest and softest among the numerous
varieties of wool used for carpet making. Carpet weavers in Kashmir
have long used Pashmina wool imported from Tibet. In Pakistan's
Northern areas comprising Nanga Parbat and K-2 goats are specially
raised with long undercoat that produce wool that is similar to
Pashmina. The special wool known as Kashmir quality is used in
superior Pakistan carpets.
Pakistan hand-knotted carpet industry made
tremendous progress in the last 50 years. It has adapted itself
wonderfully to the changing world market requirements and new trends
in consumer tastes and preferences.
Since the industry spread in remote rural areas,
the latest information technology is being used to bring most of the
carpet weaving centres into a network through use of Internet. Besides
training centres set up at major urban cities, the private sector is
also actively involved in providing guideline and training to the
weavers to meet the demand of the international buyers.
New Pakistani products — Chobi Pakistan, Pakistan
Kazak and other designs — has endless possibilities and that is what
makes it unique.
Hand-knotted carpets are much in demand in the
United States, European Union and even in the Middle East, and in some
Far Eastern countries. The entire production is exported every year.
Keeping in view the export potential the financial institutions
specially recently formed Khushhalibank can play a leading role in
developing a strong base for carpet industry. The poor skilled workers
have nothing to offer as collateral to get the bank advances. The
banks involved in micro financing can lend small amount of loans on
personal guarantee to promote this export-oriented cottage industry.
An amount of Rs.1-2 lakh is usually required to set up a unit of 4
handlooms, which offers employment to 15-20 persons.
The micro financing without collateral initiated by
the First Women Bank in the rural areas has already been proved a
great success with 100 per cent rate of recovery. In order to give a
chance to be the self-employed, the skilled workers in the
hand-knotted carpet industry also deserve to be trusted by the finance
providing companies. These workers may not prove to be the bank
defaulters like our textile tycoons.