Over 200 containers stuck at port

Nov 24 - Dec 07, 2003

Textile industry, Pakistan's single largest exports contributor to the tune of over $7 billion is currently passing through the multi-facet problems especially the fragmentation in the leadership of the industry led by All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) resulting serious damage not only to the reputation of this prestigious sector but also hurting the flow of textile exports from Pakistan.

The controversy was erupted on the results of the APTMA elections held in October in which the sitting Chairman Waqar Munnoo had won by two votes over his contestant Shahid Tata. The losing party, however, did not accept the results and alleged what they called rigging in the elections. They said that the winning candidate had allowed such members to cast their votes who were in fact not eligible to participate in the elections owing to default in the payment of subscription fees of the membership. Waqar allegedly allowed such members who belonged to his camp while the similar facility was disallowed to the members of the opposite camp. Had he provided level playing ground to the members of both sides, the outcome of the election would have been different from what it is today.

Consequently, Shahid Tata approached to Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) for arbitration, however, Waqar was declared elected on technical grounds, but the tussle was not over and both the parties were raising accusing fingers at each other. After a fortnight Shahid Tata convinced the elders of the industry in his favor and over 26 members of the management committee decided the ouster of the sitting chairman which obviously was not acceptable to the sitting chairman.

Now both the parties have again approached to FPCCI besides the government, Ministry of Commerce, DTO and court with the claims that both of them were on the right path.

However, the controversy took an ugly turn when the two groups took control of the APTMA offices in Lahore and Karachi. The Lahore office was took over by Shahid Tata while the central office was closed down by Waqar on the grounds what he claimed the threat on his life.

Consequently, the exports of textile products have come to a standstill and over 200 containers carrying textile shipments are held up at Karachi port for want of price check certificates issued by the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA).

Anwar Tata, former APTMA Chairman said that it is unfortunate that the Central Office of APMTA was closed down by Waqar Munnoo, who has been reportedly ousted by 26 Central Managing Committee Members in Lahore.

The APTMA office allegedly closed down with the connivance of the police and may not be resuming its normal functions until Monday (Nov 24) as Saturday and Sunday are weekly offs while Friday being the last one of the holy month of Ramazan may also be an off day.

Central Office in Karachi deals with all international inquiries besides issuing price certificates for clearance at the customs stage.

Anwar Tata, while commenting on the situation described it as an unfortunate situation, which may not seriously affect the export performance of the textile sector but would earn a bad name for the industry. .

Waqar Munnoo, had his own views about the situation. He said that he took the decision to close down the offices because, what he said, of fearing a serious threat to his life from the opposite group.

However, as far as the issuance of APTMA certificates for exports consignments was concerned, instructions have been issued to Lahore office to do the job.He said that he was not in favor of closing down the central offices, however, this step he took to save his life and that the office will be reopened as soon as the opposite group gives undertaking that no physical harm would be done. He regretted that since they are not serious they are not willing for any undertaking in this regard.

Meanwhile, both the parties including Waqar Munnoo and Shahid Tata have moved their cases to the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) for arbitration. The arbitration process will however take some time as the FPCCI would be appointing a three-member committee of the senior persons of the textile industry and acceptable to both the parties.

While describing the situation as unfortunate, Anwar Tata said that we have written to the Federal Minister for Commerce, Director Trade Organizations (DTO) and all concerned authorities to intervene into the situation and to take corrective measures so that the industry affairs could sail in smooth waters.

It is interesting to note that Chinniot Community had a strong hold over the textile industry for decades in Pakistan. They always dominate the industry because of unity among themselves and because of having most of the major textile units in their community. This is for the first time that they fighting each other and providing an opportunity of laughter to others who naturally want to grab the leadership of the premium industry of Pakistan. The case is now with the FPCCI which about to appoint a three-member committee to look into the matter and dispense justice to the aggrieved parties. Let us see which way the wind blows.