PAKISTAN - A KEY SUPPLIER OF ARMS

LIFTED EMBARGO HELPS PAKISTAN EMERGE AS ONE OF THE MOST ACTIVE NEW PLAYERS IN TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS WORLD ARMS MARKET WITHIN FIVE YEAR

SHABBIR H. KAZMI
Dec 01 - 07, 2008

Pakistan's arms export during the recent past was still less than US$250 million - a minuscule amount compared to the US and Russian export. However, it is huge earning for Pakistan considering that the arms sanction against it was lifted just five years ago.

The sanctions were imposed on Pakistan to punish it for embarking on its nuclear weapons program. However, following the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and Pakistan's support for the US-led war on terrorism, the stance was changed but with prejudice.

During the period of embargo, Pakistan turned to its long-time ally, China for cooperation in arms trade, which according to defence experts, was limited to conventional weapons only. However, with its "new status" in the world arms market, Pakistan's arms exhibition, International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS) is being viewed as one of the leading defence events in South Asia region.

At present Pakistan is exporting arms and munitions to 50 Asian and Europeans countries, the US, UK and New Zealand. Its sales are not limited to small arms and ammunition but also included big-ticket items, such as the Super Mushak training aircraft to Middle East, gunboats to Bangladesh and man portable air defence missiles to Malaysia. These sales have enabled Pakistan to further penetrate in the international arms market. One of the early recognitions of Pakistan's capabilities was sale of its Al-Khalid main battle tank (MBT) to Saudi Arabia to beef up the Kingdom's defence capabilities.

IDEAS 2008 could be termed as one of the biggest displays. Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani inaugurated the 5th expos organized in Karachi. The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Chief of Naval Staff, Noman Bashir and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Tariq Majeed attended the inaugural session. The five-day event was aimed at bringing together local and international arms manufacturers and buyers, and exploring possibilities for cooperation and joint ventures in the field of defence production.

The IDEAS 2008 was a big success as private exhibitors have secured supply orders worth U$40 million. The event has also helped the country reach broad understanding with 11 serious buyers for the sale of arms and ammunition. This was stated by Director General Defence Export Promotion Organization (DEPO), Maj Gen Mohammad Farooq at a press briefing on Friday.

Overwhelming response was received from foreign exhibitors and delegates. This event not only enhanced Pakistan's image globally but also nullified the security concerns about Pakistan. The Karachiites and the City District Government extended the best hospitality to the exhibitors and visitors of IDEAS 2008.

Global Industrial & Defence Solutions (GIDS) participated in the expo in a big way and succeeded in projecting Pakistan as a country capable of meeting the defence requirements of geopolitically important states of the region. Its constituent companies are Advance Engineering Research Organization; Integrated Defence Systems; Marine Systems, Xpert Engineering Services; Institute of Industrial Control Systems; Al-Technique Corporation of Pakistan; and Scientific Engineering & Technology Services.

GIDS displayed a comprehensive range of products being produced by its constituent companies. These companies are involved in production of research based products and services. Excellence in technology, innovation and competitiveness give these companies an edge over other manufacturers in the region. These companies invest heavily in R&D and give top priority to the development of human resource. Their products and services are extensively used by the three stakeholders responsible for guarding the air, land and sea frontiers of Pakistan.

A product displayed at the expo needs special mention. Anti-tank Wire Guided Missile System known as 'Baktar Shiken' has been developed by Institute of Industrial Systems (IICS). It has a range of 3km with day and night capability. It becomes highly potent when installed with tandem warhead. At present 'Baktar Shiken' is being exported to various countries that include Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Libya.

The overwhelming response received during the IDEAS 2008 from national and international delegates established that GIDS constituent organizations are capable of earning a huge foreign exchange for the country besides strengthening Pakistan's defence capabilities. This was the jubilant expression of AV (Rtd) Raja Tariq Mahmood, CEO of Global Industrial and Defence Solutions.

Delegates and visitors and representatives of media showed keen interest in unmanned aerial vehicle UQAB-PI, being manufactured by the Xpert Engineering Services, having range of 100km in radius and made of components material making it highly undetectable by the radar systems. UQAB-PI is controlled through ground control station, which has highly interactive and user friendly interface.