June 21 - 27, 20

Built over 1,050 acres, the Sialkot International Airport was completed at a cost of Rs2.5 billion through internal fund-raising by entrepreneurs of Sialkot. This is the first private sector investment in building a project of this magnitude and significance in the country as well as in South Asia.

On 2nd Feb 2001, the President of Pakistan accorded approval for the construction of an international airport at Sialkot on Build Own and Operate (BOO) basis and an MOU was signed between Sialkot Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Ministry of Defence through Civil Aviation Authority. The then President Pervez Musharraf formally inaugurated Sialkot International Airport on 11th December 2007 and lauded the efforts of business community of Sialkot for setting a unique precedent by constructing international airport, first of its kind in the country.

Sialkot International Airport has been certified by Civil Aviation Authority for the operations of all types of aircrafts including B-747 as it has 3.6 KM long Runway with 95 LCN, Cat-II Airfield Lighting System and ILS and cat 8 Rescue and Fire Fighting services.

The Sialkot International Airport is not only accelerating the pace of trade and commerce activities but also helping in reducing the poverty and generating employment opportunities in the region.

From the point of view of business, the Sialkot International Airport project has many plus points.

Over the years, air cargo and passengers' needs of the Sialkot and other districts that would be using the airport have grown manifold. For the business community, the Sialkot Airport put an end to long delays, damage to goods or packing due to multiple handling, pilferage, security concerns and other losses.

Sialkot International Airport is meeting huge volumes of air cargo and passenger traffic that already exists in the areas around it. Furthermore, the full export potential of the region is being realised with the establishment of this airport, making many new markets and sectors accessible.

The Federal Board of Revenue has notified the airport as custom station. Hence, a full-fledged custom Department along with PRAL setup was working there. Similarly, the Sialkot Airport has raised a fleet of custom bonded trucks to facilitate the transportation of import and export cargo of the airport from and to various airports and custom stations of the country.

The first green field airport of the country was constructed in an investment friendly atmosphere, incorporating the best airport facilities meeting international standards. Sufficient space has been allocated and reserved at the airport for airline offices, aircraft catering units, ground handling services, cargo warehouses, restaurant and car parking, hotel etc.

The cargo flights have also been started by Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways and British Airways (DHL). Bonded trucking facility from Sialkot International Airport to Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar Airport is already operational. Cargo handling at the airport would save over one billion rupees for the businesses with total saving of at least three billion rupees annually would be a perpetual benefit.

The Sialkot Airport speeded up the transportation of export cargo by air and facilitated a great number of businessmen and overseas Pakistanis of this particular region.

The Sialkot Airport is bringing about a great industrial revolution particularly in the employment of the residents of the cities forming export triangle of Pakistan comprising Gujrat, Sialkot and Gujranwala known for producing and exporting sports goods, gloves, surgical instruments, sports wears, cutlery, ceramics, leather garments etc.

Around 10,000 exporters of Sialkot, besides a large number of exporters and other passengers of Gujrat, Narowal, Hafizabad, Mandi Bahauddin, Wazirabad, Jehlum and Mirpur (Azad Kashmir) are getting benefit with this airport.

The Qatar Airways, which recently started the world's biggest freighter cargo aircraft F-777 service from Sialkot international airport, is operating two weekly cargo flights from this airport. The number of direct international passenger flights from Sialkot International Airport to several foreign destinations has touched the figure of 26, as the national flag carrier PIA has also started another direct passenger international flight from Sialkot to Sharjah and Jeddah.

Businessmen of Sialkot said that the project of Sialkot International Airport was reflection of Sialkot business community's great struggle, commitment, marvellous dedication, enthusiasm and endless sincerity, which has written a success story commitment and dedication and a saga of self help, advising others to replicate it. PIA is also conducting operation of Hajj flights from Sialkot from 2009.

It may be noted that Sialkot is a total export-oriented city of Pakistan and possesses century-old industrial heritage. It has developed a remarkable export culture over this period and it is unique for Sialkot that everything produced in the city is exported. By virtue of this, the city is contributing more than one billion dollars to the national exchequer annually.

Businessmen told Page that the century-old history of sports goods and surgical instruments industry have seen the industry develop to the highest international standards mainly due to business acumen and sense of the entrepreneurship towards exports.

According to them, the Sialkot city has thousands of small and medium enterprises, which are engaged in honouring their global commitments for export of value-added quality goods. The city has developed industrial edge over other cities of the country especially in sports goods and surgical instruments.

Over 85 percent of total production of soccer balls of the world comes from Sialkot while all international brands are sourcing their supply of footballs from this city. Most of the developed countries are importing surgical instruments from Sialkot for re-export purpose, under their brand names.

Sialkot is the only city of Pakistan where 99 percent products are exported to various countries of the world. Sialkot based small and medium industries are earning foreign exchange of over one billion dollars annually through exports and strengthening the national economy.

The success story of Sialkot-based industries could be attributed to unmatched skill of local workers and their craftsmanship, they said.

They also said that Sialkot has become a 'role model' for the country by constructing the international airport and Sialkot dry port, and face-lifting of the city under city package programme. The success story of Sialkot-based industries can be attributed to unmatched skill of local workers, craftsmanship and commitment of business community. Despite lack of facilities the exporters have been doing their best for competing with international market, but they have been unable to upgrade their workplaces without the financial support of the government.

According to estimates, over 8.825 million footballs amounting to Rs2171.78 million were exported on the eve of the FIFA Football World Cup 2010 being played in South Africa from Sialkot dry port so far.

Sialkot-made footballs, -field hockey sticks, and -cricket gear are used in international games including the Olympics and World Cups. According to Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI)'s spokesman around 85 soccer ball manufacturers have got membership of Child Labour Elimination Programme (CLEP). Today, almost all international buyers rush to Sialkot to secure their supply chains, building strong and long term business relations with local exporters.

Under the directives of the federal government a project of "Sports Industries Development Centre" (SIDC) has been initiated costing more than Rs4.35 million and hopefully it would be operational in June next year. The concept of setting up of SIDC was to modernise soccer ball industry and to resolve problems being confronted by the industry. Its purpose was to overhaul the sports goods industry on modern production lines, especially technology of mechanised ball that was threatening the hand-stitched soccer ball.