Category Archives: Business & Economy

Sooper Hai Azadi … but what is Azadi?

14th August is around the corner (literally gali kay nukkar par – the silencer bagair ki motorbikes are already out) and we see the surge of Independence Day fervor all around. I have always been a true patriot but as I have mused in the past, celebrating Independence must also be coupled with positive action.

So I was pleasantly surprised when Peek Freans Sooper, the largest selling biscuit in Pakistan, invited a few bloggers over for a discussion panel. What was enticing were the names of Jehangir Khan, Jibran Nasir, Shehzad Roy, and Saba Gul as the participants. The mix promised to bring several diverse thoughts to the panel and the presence of Umair Jaliawala as the moderator intrigued me further.

I had notified ahead of time that I may be joining in late due to some professional commitments and so I was surprised when I walked in just as the event had really kicked off. Umair was quick to quip in his banter that Pakistanis ko time par na aanay ki bhi azadi hai. And that sadly is seen the truth.

IMG_0504(Saadia Naveed – Deputy MD, EBM)

We heard a few brief words from Saadia Naveed, the Deputy Managing Director, of English Biscuit Manufacturers on Sooper and just how it has become The Brand of EBM in effect becoming the identity of EBM even eclipsing the actual Peek Freans brand (of which it is a subset). The advertising campaigns of Sooper have always been very catchy and sticky. Even as I write this the words ‘Sab say aagay, sab say oopar’ echo in my head.

Adnan Ali Bajwa, the Brand Manager of Sooper, then led us through the thought process for the new Sooper Hai Azadi campaign that Sooper was to launch that night on all Media. He spoke of how how Sooper is a biscuit that binds the various elements of Pakistani society, bringing them together in unity through its taste. You will find the laborer in the street enjoying the egg and milk taste just as you will find it being served with tea in the top corporate offices. Thus, they wished to incorporate all the sounds of the Paksitani society in a jingle that linked to the Independence Day. So the evergreen “Mein Bhi Pakistan Hoon, Tu Bhi Pakistan Hai” was chosen but the various sounds of daily life were incorporated (rather beautifully I may add) in the tune. Whether it is the sound of pots clanking, or the sound of a golawala crushing ice, or the sound of rice as it is being cleaned, the tune beautifully brings to life the essence of Pakistani society accompanied with the bright colors of our vibrant country. Indeed as the ad says, Azadi naam hai aik khoobsurat ihsaas ka.

Panel-768x356(L to R: Umair Jaliawala, Jehangir Khan, Shehzad Roy, Jibran Nasir, Saba Gul)

The Panel discussion was kicked off with Jibran Nasir speaking first (he apologized he had a commitment with his mother that took priority to all). And Jibran is one passionate man when it comes to this country and fixing the broken society. While we may not see eye to eye on certain issues, there is no doubt he is a man of action. Each panelist was asked what Azadi meant to him. Bringing up the Quetta blast and the wiping out of an entire generation of lawyers in Balochistan, he didn’t mince any words to what Azadi meant to him. The freedom to have your rights, the right to education, the right to clean water and the right to speak your mind.

(Found a recording of Jibran’s words thanks to Hiba Moeen)

We then turned to Jehangir Khan, the Squash legend as he spoke about the freedom his squash career brought to him. How as a sickly child he was not allowed to play despite being from a family of professional Squash players. How, when his father found him in the courts one day and saw the talent his son had. He spoke of the passing away of his elder brother, a promising squash player due to a heart attack on the court at the young age of 28 and how for a while Jehangir stopped playing because if a fit man like his brother died, what would he a sickly kid be able to do. However, his family convinced him and he went after the championship with a passion to realize his brother’s dreams. And he did so, with 551 unbeaten games. A true behemoth in the world of Squash. His azadi was the ability to achieve something in memory of his brother.

Shehzad Roy, singer and musician turned Social Activist, termed Azadi as the freedom to love his country despite everything. When you fall in love with someone you don’t leave them because they have flaws. Despite majority of his family being abroad and asking him to leave, he still is a Pakistani citizen and lives here because he loves this nation.

Saba Gul, CEO of Popinjay, a high street accessories brand in the US which combines a for-profit model with social entrepreneurship and skill development in villages in Pakistan. Saba described her moment of Azadi when she quit a custom-designed tech job which utilized her two MIT degrees, and decided to move back to Pakistan and start the project that eventually became Popinjay. While I had met Saba several years before when Popinjay was known as Bags for Bliss, I never really had a chance to talk to her about how it is structured. I am hoping to get a chance to communicate more with her so I can understand and also maybe get some ideas for Ihsaas Trust, a microfinance and social uplift organization I happen to be a Trustee of. Unfortunately, Saba left the venue right after the panel and I was unable to talk to her. So that goes on my things to do I guess.

Unfortunately, all of the panelists were not there for the refreshments part of the event (though Jehangir Khan sahab did stick around for some photos with us). Thus, unfortunately I was unable to really talk to any of them in detail (guess they were available in the earlier “networking” time slot pre-event which I missed). I did get a chance to talk to Adnan Bajwa, the brand manager, and found him really passionate about the campaign and his brand.

IMG_0745(DiscoMaulvi with Squash Legend Jehangir Khan)

The evening was capped with some scrumptious bun kababs and aaloo cholas. The best refreshment I have seen at a blogger event so far. So kudos to EBM for that🙂.


(I am missing from this bloggers pic as I was busy eating the yummy bun kababs…. LOL)

Well Daraz, tell us this #HotSecret already!

Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have buzzing with the #HotSecret tag these last 3 days. Something is being launched by Daraz.Pk and they are trying to be a tease about it.


The advertisement on the website (which is extremely lewd and suggestive and hence not going to be posted on this blog), sort of gives it away. It has to be a phone or some kind of electronic device.

Ofcourse the folks on Social Media had some funny stuff tagged on the trend:

So what exactly is this #HotSecret?

OK Baba OK! I will tell you! Daraz is launching a new smartphone! For more details keep checking

Engro Corporation — I Am The Change

“Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves” (Quraan 13:11)

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Many of us are prone to complain and moan; about how our country is going in the doldrums the government is corrupt and inefficient, the people are uneducated, the roads are filthy, there is poverty all around, etc. However, very few realize that the change that they are seeking will come from none but themselves. Luckily for Pakistan there are many who decided to stop complaining and become agents of change.

In 2012, Engro Corporation launched a small initiative to recognize these true stalwarts of society who have worked tirelessly to improve access to education, health-care and livelihoods for Pakistan’s poorest of the poor.The initiative aims to collaborate with the corporate and the philanthropic sector of the country and help individuals and institutions who are pioneering initiatives to improve lives across the spheres of Livelihoods, Education and Health.

I Am The Change (IATC) celebrates those who decided it wasn’t enough to moan and groan but to start the rebuilding of our nation one brick at a time. These heroes would have served their causes without fame and recognition but to magnify these causes we need to highlight them, to support them, and to spread their deeds far and wide.

I had the opportunity to meet some of these heroes last year during a bloggers meet that Engro organized at T2F. This year, I was invited to the awards ceremony by Xenith Public Relations, along with very limited people from the Social Media community. I wish there had been more of Social Media representation at the dinner who could have spread the word far and wide through our collective ‘pens’.

CEVIlEUUkAA1_sv.jpg large CEVE9LWVIAAyPqo.jpg large

The event was an extravagant affair, some may even call it a bit over-indulgent. However, as a Trustee of a charitable trust (Ihsaas Trust), I understand to some extent why Engro wanted to splurge on it. The ugly truth is that money attracts money. The dinner was for the high and mighty of society, a bid to attract them and to get them to fill out pledge forms to support this cause of highlighting the heroes of society. And sadly those type of people don’t show up to eat daal chawal outside your local masjid. However, I still think the event could have been equally grand with a little less spent on decor, food and ‘shashkay’. For 10% saved off the cost of the event, we could change several lives at Ihsaas Trust or any of the IATC award winners.

This year’s recipients included the Azat Foundation in the category of education, working to provide education and youth empowerment opportunities to individuals from various areas of Baluchistan including Noshki, Kharan, Awaraan amongst others.

In the category of Livelihoods, the award was given to Orangi Pilot Project that continues to focus on urban development and works with the underprivileged in the arena of micro-finance and micro-enterprises, helping set up small businesses such as embroidery, footwear manufacturing and other small cottage industries reaching out to over 100,000 individuals through various projects. The winner in the category of Health was Child Life Foundation (CLF) — an NGO providing comprehensive child health care services from emergency care to prevention. CLF provides free medicines, essential oxygen systems, medical monitors and most importantly trains doctors and nurses to help save the lives of children at imminent risk reaching out to approximately 800 child-patients every day.

1 IATC May 20152 IATC May 2015 3 IATC May 2015 5 IATC May 2015

Previous winners of the IATC Awards in the various categories include organizations such as The Dream Foundation; The Garage School; Patients Welfare Association; Karachi Vocational & Training Centre; Child Aid Association; KhwendoKor (Peshawar); Akhuwat (Lahore).

CEVMK8yVAAAU1oTSpeaking at the occasion, Ali Ansari – outgoing President & CEO, Engro Corporation said, “We strongly believe in empowerment of communities by highlighting change agents who are working in high-impact areas such as education, health and livelihoods. Pakistan has a growing young population which will be in need of job opportunities. Coupled with the fact that half of the country cannot read or write and up to 25 million children not having access to school, the country is faced with an education, health and livelihood emergency. In this scenario it is imperative that we join hands to empower agents of change who are working to improve these social issues – IATC is a partnership platform that creates awareness and provides recognition to the unsung heroes from across Pakistan in order to support and multiply their efforts.”

The IATC platform also announced a major development in terms of cross partnerships with different corporate organizations of Pakistan which included Coca-Cola, Mitsubishi Corporation, National Foods, K-Electric amongst others. The winners of the competition were selected based on the scope of their social work; level of impact, number of beneficiaries and the ability to replicate the program amongst other key considerations.The IATC award entails a financial grant along with aiding the NGO in terms of its capacity & organizational development whilst also ensuring employee volunteerism activities.


The evening included Ayesha Tammy Haq moderating a panel discussion with Ali Ansari and representatives from the corporate sponsors: Abrar Hassan from National Foods Limited, Kimihide Ando from Mitsubishi, and Zohair Sharif from Asiatic Public Relations representing Coca-Cola.

The one message that I found very useful from Ali Ansari’s speech was:

Corporations have slowly now realized that one solution that the world is looking for is Social Change. And that CSR is not just about lip service and throwing money at causes, but getting involved and really fostering change. Engro Corporation is on the right path with the I Am Change initiative. Let’s hope that more and more corporates join in to spark off a domino effect.

PPMA Circular regarding PIC case and the effect on Pharmaceutical exports from Pakistan

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PPMA Circular No. 016/2012PPMA-logo

February 10, 2012

To:        All Member Companies of PPMA


Dear Members,

As you may already know regarding the unfortunate deaths reported at the Punjab Institute of Cardiology in the past few weeks.  We, the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Association (PPMA), the representative body of the Pakistan pharma industry have been shocked by this tragedy and have full sympathies with the affected families.  We have been having contacts and meetings with the authorities and also with the technical personnel in our member companies all over Pakistan.  The main purpose of the contacts and meetings was to

1. To ascertain the facts

2. To review the Quality Assurance/ Quality Control and cGMP guidelines and SOPs for validation.

These measures would be vital to prevent any further mishap of this nature.

Coming now to the facts; the samples were sent to the government labs as well as independent labs in the UK and Belgium.  So far we have seen reports of one batch from a particular company being contaminated.  However, we are unable to share the details as the matter is subjudice as the Supreme Court of Pakistan has taken Suo Moto notice of the entire matter.

We would like to mention here that due to lot of hype created by the media, panic has been created in the public’s mind that all locally produced medicines are spurious and sub-standard.  We started getting enquiries from the foreign buyers of our medicines, asking our manufacturers to clarify the matter.  In at least two cases, the orders have been cancelled by the foreign buyers.  We held press conference in Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad where we stated the facts of the matter with a view of restraining the media not to spread the misinformation campaign as it would shatter the trust that the National pharma industry has built in the public over several decades, and would lead to its collapse, paving way for counterfeits to fill the vacuum that would be created in the market.  The National pharma industry is exporting to over 60 countries and the total exports are around USD 170 million.  40% of the leading brands of medicines marketed by MNCs in Pakistan are manufactured by National companies under contract manufacturing. This is reflective of the quality manufacturing of the National industry and the trust reposed in it.  We would like to mention that the exported drugs also undergo stringent quality control checks in their respective importing countries (case in point, Afghanistan where all batches are quarantined for 15 days by their Ministry of Health and then released for marketing after QC clearance), suggesting additional safeguards for the patients.

Incidence like this one, though unfortunate, happens even in developed markets and big MNCs have recalled contaminated batches, after deaths were reported.  We strongly feel that the entire industry’s image should not be damaged because of once in a lifetime incident like this one.

We hope that we have been able to give our viewpoint, and would like to assure you that the PPMA is doing whatever it can to prevent such an occurrence in the future.  Our members have already started the process of re-validation in their manufacturing process.  We seek your understanding and support in the matter.

Thanks and regards

Riaz Hussain

Executive Director/ Secretary General PPMA

c.c.      Mr. Tariq Ikram, Acting Chairman PPMA

           Mr. Muhammad Asad, Chairman PPMA (on leave)

PIC case gets a new twist | Efroze Chemicals ISOTAB was not prescribed to most of the victims – Mubashir Luqman

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Free medicine at Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) becomes a death sentence. 130 plus deaths. Political mud-slinging. Conspiracy theories. Spurious accusations. Pakistan’s pharmaceutical industry in trouble. Catch up on the news first then read on.

Now that you are up-to-date on this bizarre story here’s a new twist! (Forward to around the 27 second mark)

What’s that now? Mubashir Luqman is on Dunya TV saying Efroze Chemical’s ISOTAB, the alleged killer drug, was not even prescribed to most of the PIC patients who died? Yes read that again. ISOTAB may not have been prescribed to those who died. Wait wasn’t the anti-malarial inadvertently added to ISOTAB conclusively responsible as the cause of death? Talha bin Ayub wrote a few days back in a guest blog on Teeth Maestro that things don’t add up medically and that a overdose from the anti-malarial can be reversed also.

We need to step back and really investigate this whole incident properly without political circuses or lynch mobs baying for blood. For the sake of the 130 plus who passed away. For the sake of the thousands that may die in the future if this entire episode is not used to structure the pharmaceutical industry, to build in safeguards, to strengthen our institutions, and to protect our people.

What do you think of this entire episode and these new developments?

The Economic Genocide of Karachi

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MA-LAUGH-1A Guest Post by Majyd Aziz

Peaceful environment is vital for economic growth and national prosperity. Citizens need an assurance of quality of life and this is possible thru income generation, social and physical infrastructure, security and safety, and political stability in their locality. At the same time, foreign and domestic investors, business and industrial community, and banking and stock exchange clients and customers want solid surety that their investment would be safe and profitable.

Karachi is the largest city of Pakistan with an estimated population of around 20 million and has the largest informal sector as well as the largest number of home-based workers. It accounts for a lion’s share in Pakistan’s revenue generation by contributing about 68% (KCCI annual report 2010-11) or 65% (as per City District Government Karachi report) to the national exchequer. All national and international surveys, reports, and analyses confirm that Karachi is the mainstay of the Pakistani economy.

Karachi contributes about 55% to Pakistan’s GDP, that is, about US$ 98 billion, projected to reach $130 billion by 2015 provided peace is restored in the city and suburbs. Of course, Karachi’s high share in GDP is due to its large industrial base. Karachi has 15,000 formal industrial units in its 5 industrial zones while there are 360 markets spread all over the city. It is estimated by this writer that the daily loss to the national GDP is Rs 2 billion for every hour that Karachi remains non-operational.

During the previous government’s tenure, the policies of Premier Shaukat Aziz encouraged substantial bullish activity at the Stock Exchanges. This led to a huge cash surplus that needed to be channelized to productive usage. At the same time Dubai witnessed a construction boom. Thus a formidable flight of capital was witnessed as billions of dollars were transferred thru Hundi and Hawala or thru couriers from Pakistan to UAE. This was done neither due to law and order nor due to political instability. The prime reason was the fabulous opportunities for short-term profits and the enchanting lure of Dubai.

Today, the flight of capital is in tandem with the pull-out of investment and the root cause has been the criminalization of Karachi, the breakdown of the security apparatus, and the juvenile efforts and actions of the political parties. Moreover, the near-collapse of the energy sector has proved to be extremely detrimental. Resultantly, foreign investment has dipped by 35% while domestic investment is on hold at this moment. The Stock Exchanges are at a downward trend and this has affected investment in real estate and other hitherto profitable ventures. Non-performing loans portfolio of banks is alarmingly high and State Bank of Pakistan has not been able to curb the menace of inflation.

It is entirely possible, although there are no credible facts and figures, that billions of dollars have been transferred to Malaysia, UAE, Bangladesh, and even Sri Lanka. Although most of the entrepreneurs do not acknowledge their foreign investment, the market gossip confirms that between 9 and 12 home textile manufacturers have set up industries in Bangladesh. The readymade garments manufacturers are taking a delegation to Bangladesh after Eid to scout joint ventures and investment possibilities. It is to be noted that since January 2011, European Union has allowed semi-finished and finished fabrics from SAARC countries if used by other SAARC countries, including Bangladesh, under the regime of SAARC Regional Cumulation in which the value-added products made from these intra-SAARC exports by Bangladesh would also be eligible for GSP+.

The industrialists of Karachi have to suffer law and order situation, power shortages, low water supply, and gas difficulties, as well as Pakistan not enjoying GSP+ for exports to EU. Furthermore, the trade and industry community is subject to extortion and arm-twisting by political and other organizations. This bhattha collection syndrome has taken huge proportions in the last couple of years. Unfortunately, the political parties, the government, and the law-enforcing agencies have not been able to stem this menacing tide. All these factors have compelled investors to set up or contemplate the setting up of units in other countries. There is news of funds being transferred to Quality Industrial Zone in Jordan. In Malaysia too, Pakistanis are investing heavily with emphasis on construction and trading. This was also revealed a couple of months ago by the outgoing Malaysian Consul General in Karachi.

Education has been seriously affected due to continued violence and strikes. Educational institutions are closed without any notice and examinations are postponed at the last minute. The education standard has deteriorated and has put the schooling careers of thousands at stake. KCCI estimated that about 35000 students from violence-affected areas are not attending classes while around 700 teachers are unable to take classes in Kati Pahari and Orangi, etc.

Weddings, funerals, and social gatherings have been negatively impacted and this has also affected the viability of service providers as well as employment. Daylight robbery is the norm and burglaries are an every day thing. Citizens have started to erect barriers that limit access to their neighborhoods and there is a substantial increase in demand for armed guards.

Karachi has over 15,000 industries in the organized sector while there are more than 50,000 units in the informal or unorganized sector that are generally not under the purview of either Labor Department or EOBI/SESSI etc. The workforce figures do not reflect real employment because employers tend to understate the number of their workers to these departments and agencies. However, conventional wisdom reckons that if each factory on an average employs 200 workers, then the 15,000 industries should be having in excess of 3 million direct employees. If the workers of the informal or unorganized sector are included, plus taking into account home-based workers, then one could state that Karachi provides direct employment to over 5 million workers. This does not take into account domestic workers or volunteers working infrequently.

Recently, it has been seen that strikes are becoming common again. KCCI has noted that 36 announced strikes have taken place in the recent past. So much so, that even the Karachi Port has been shut off due to strike to protest the murder of a third-tier leader of an ethnic-based political party. PIA employees went on a strike against a politically appointed Managing Director, while the KESC management-workers imbroglio made Karachi hostage to loadshedding and riots for many weeks. Few days ago, the Custom people went on strike to protest the arrest of a colleague who was nabbed for committing a fraud of over Rs 1.50 billion. Pakistan’s trade was badly affected due to non-operational status at the Custom House.

The law and order situation alongwith prolonged loadshedding has affected worker‘s productivity severely. It is estimated that productivity has fallen by over 25% even when Pakistani worker’s productivity is acknowledged as less than a comparable Bangladeshi or a Sri Lankan worker. The official GDP figure of less than 2.40% is testimony to the difficult economic conditions of Pakistan; the main reason being the state of affairs in Karachi.

The situation in Karachi is primarily due to the machinations of political parties and due to their non-chalant attitude towards Karachi. This metropolis was called The City of Lights. This appellation was cherished with devout pride by the denizens of Karachi. What happened that today it is the City of Blood, the City of Darkness, and the City of Chaos?

So, can there be a U-turn by the political parties to seriously and earnestly endeavor to bring peace? Will they listen to the “signals” emanating out of the meeting of the Formation Commanders in GHQ? Will they seriously take cognizance of the daily killings and the mayhem in Karachi?

The political parties are basically fighting to maintain their turf. These parties have protectors of strong and dominant players in gun-running, land-grabbing, and drugs-marketing. The income from these activities is phenomenal and also provides power and importance. Most of the warehouses in Khadda/Moosa Lane/Kharadar/Boulton Market/Marriott Road are owned by unscrupulous importers to take advantage of the notorious Afghan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement as well and other import “manipulations” by bringing foreign consumable goods. They pay about Rupees 100,000 per container for night-time unloading to store goods in the warehouses while “protection” of these warehouses is another big money-making racket that was partly exposed during the Ashura bomb blast and arson at the Boulton Market two years ago.

At the same time, where on the one hand, an ethno-political party has a mesmerizing control over Karachi, then on the other hand, the other parties are striving to get a foothold in the City’s political arena and to wrest seats from the control of this ethno-political party. This has naturally brought about a harsh reaction resulting in a brutal law and order situation culminating in daily deaths in double figures.

Do the politicians really want to bring about a peaceful and livable environment in this city? The task is onerous and the journey difficult. But, if there is a will there is a way. The first and foremost step to be taken is that all party flags, posters, graffiti, and slogans must be eliminated and wiped out from the city. Secondly, there would be no display of arms at political meetings nor would the politicos move around with armed escorts. Thirdly, what is of prime importance is that the political parties must keep at bay their hardcore militants and must ensure that political patronage is not accorded to militants arrested by the law-enforcing agencies.

There have been so-called De-weaponization campaigns and at the same time clarion calls for ridding this City of arms. It is easier said than done. Thousands of arms licenses are being issued on political grounds by the Home Department. The Interior Minister reveals that sophisticated Israeli arms have found their way into Karachi. The solution is however possible. Enact a Federal law making illegal arms a crime punishable by life imprisonment. Then make sure that once a culprit is arrested, that person must be sentenced if found guilty and if there is political pressure on the law enforcers, the name of the politician pulling rank must be forwarded to the Prime Minister for taking action against that politician. Meantime, an amnesty may be declared for those possessing illegal arms. This is a tall order but efforts must be continuously made in this matter.

Lack of employment opportunities is one major reason for the despondency and for the escalation in the crime rates. A massive, fast-track program must be initiated by the government to introduce projects such as low-cost housing in this country. This would directly spur up activity in 45 industries and provide jobs for millions. This is the only viable initiative for reducing unemployment and attacking extremism, terrorism, and crimes.

Therefore, it is high time all leaders of political parties must seriously, for once, have a two-day All Parties Conference to deliberate and agree on a three-point agenda:

  1. Economy
  2. Law and Order
  3. Code of Conduct

This would be the Charter of Peace. This would be guaranteed and monitored by the Armed Forces, by the Judiciary, and by the Business Community.






Majyd Aziz is a Karachi based Entrepreneur and a senior leader of the business community. He is a former Chairman of SITE Association of Industry, former President of Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and has held posts on the board various public organizations and companies.

Businessmen’s Silence is Deafening

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MA-LAUGH-1A Guest Post by Majyd Aziz

PAKISTAN is fortunate to have a formidable number of experienced, visionary, and dedicated entrepreneurs who have carved out a name for themselves in trade, in industry, in social activities, and at global forums. Inspite of monumental odds and roadblocks, whether in the domestic environment or in international markets, Pakistani businessmen and industrialists have persevered and succeeded. Over the years, they also formed Chambers, Associations, Forums, and Groups to protect, promote, and project their views, their endeavors, and their organizations.

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." Martin Luther King, Jr.

The trade and industry community has also boldly taken stands whenever the need arose. In 1990, under the aegis of SITE Association of Industry and APTMA, a forum SICORLO was formed to protest the deteriorating law and order situation. At that time, SICORLO issued advertisement on a daily basis making fervent appeals for the restoration of law and order. Millions of rupees were spent, and this campaign proved so effective that the government had to step in, literally pleading that this “sob-story” was giving a notorious reputation to the country and that it could turn out to be counter-productive in the long run. Things did improve for a short time thereafter and then the country was back to square one mainly due to juvenile politicians.

In 1986, under the dynamic leadership of a brave business leader, the late Ejaz Shaffi, the SITE Association of Industry led the campaign against the enforcement of a draconian system in Excise Duty that the mandarins in the erstwhile Central Board of Revenue had tried to introduce by camouflaging it as “simplification procedures”. This was a hectic nine-day protest, where five to six hundred industrialists would gather daily at SITE, keeping their factories shut, and listening to the motivational oratory of Ejaz Shaffi and other leaders. After nine days, Premier Junejo had to fly to Karachi, and at a meeting with the industrialists at the Sindh Governor House, declared that this draconian exercise planned by the egoistic CBR officers would be ended immediately. All this happened during the martial law tenure of General Zia.

The above events are narrated because I was fully involved in both. These brought me into limelight and established by bona fides as a representative of trade and industry.

In recent times, businessmen have had their protests but these have been few and ineffective. Once even FPCCI went on strike during the tenure of Benazir Bhutto but she got the better of it. Recently, a self-styled leader of small traders called a strike against extortion and law and order. Initially, the Karachi Chamber President agreed to support it but Interior Minister Rehman Malik and the Sindh Governor prevailed upon the KCCI leadership to cool down. Resultantly, the strike fizzled out and the small traders’ leader got, what Andy Warhol once said, his fifteen minutes of fame. He was a hot item for a couple of days on the media but then the party was over.

The reason I am presenting these examples is that today, when Pakistan needs to sort out its various problems, the role of the business community is zilch because it is at a crossroads. It has this feeling that policies and events in this country are working against businessmen and their very survivability is at stake. The businessmen have this feeling that they have lost whatever ground they had achieved in the last some years. A situation has developed where it seems that the businessmen are damned if they do anything and damned even if they do not do anything.

The leaders of the business community generally tend to play it safe when it comes to dealing with the ruling party, even in these days of democracy and freedom of expression. The present economic scenario and the recessionary trends in the country along with cost increases, utilities shortages and high rates, coupled with low demand, volatile business conditions, uncertainty of the rupee-dollar parity, and the deteriorating law and order situation, not to mention the upsurge in strike calls, have brought businessmen into a frenzy. Their long-term planning has gone to the dogs while in the short run the capital crunch is proving disastrous. The stock exchange is going down like a roller coaster and the media is showing the mess in vivid colors. It seems that in Islamabad the economy is on the lower strata of the government’s agenda, and the Finance Minister is spending more time in the corridors of IMF and World Bank rather than interacting with the businessmen. In his absence, the FBR fudges figures and the Finance Ministry gets pie in the face. All budgetary calculations are based on what loans and aid Pakistan will or can receive rather than endeavoring to expand the tax base at home.

Pakistan faces on-going violence in Karachi, resulting from political grievances which have been enormously magnified by extremism and lawlessness. It is a shame that the law-enforcers are so impotent that they are not able to control the city. There have been reports that they tend to become silent spectators rather than assiduously performing their obligations. Moreover, if there were no Edhi, Aman, or Chhippa ambulances, how would the injured and dead be transported to the hospitals or the morgue? And the less said about KESC, the better.

The political impasse has been putting a heavy toll not only on Karachi’s economic picture, but also on the nation’s economic progress. At the same time, the effect on foreign investment in Karachi is also being felt. The head of a multi-national stated bluntly that “foreign businessmen are now becoming reluctant to invest under the prevailing circumstances and the only option left for them is to check out other countries.” Another declared in clear terms that the US investors have lost interest in funding projects due to civil strife in Karachi. His colleague added “although foreign investment is not a panacea of all ills, yet the influx of foreign investment in power generation, infra-structure development, and other sectors could help solve crucial issues.” A Japanese representative of a trading company stated that the Karachi problem has discouraged Japanese investors from coming here and that there “is a general feeling among the foreign investors that Karachi is no longer safe to invest.” Another Japanese moaned the circular debt when requested to invest in an upcoming coal-based power project. Ominous words that further erode the image of this city.

The beef against the business leadership is that matters are taken in stride and, if need arises, a press release is issued condemning this or that. That’s it. There is apathy even when rates of utilities are increased multifold. There are murmurs but no conviction in statements or actions. Extortion by vested interests is a daily occurrence but there is acquiescence within the business leadership. Market leaders collect funds on a shop-basis and then distribute them to various extortionists and political elements. Quite easily done. No hassles.

There is no better time than now for the business leadership to catch the bull by its horns. There have been no overtures made to the political parties or to the government or even to the armed forces and judiciary. There has not been a unified stance by businessmen to play a prominent and purposeful role to handle the crisis. The silence is truly deafening. Silence is not golden in this case. The FPCCI President with the support of business leaders like Tariq Sayeed, Siraj Teli, S M Muneer, Aqil Karim Dhedhi, and Asad Umar must initiate the dialog and must energize everyone towards the resolution of the crisis. Hope is there if businessmen mediate and if businessmen put some sense in the ranks of politicians. The FPCCI President is also a Senator and thus is better placed to carry on the task.

So, what it boils down to is that circumstances could look favorable for a solution to the political and economic imbroglio that Karachi is facing. The process should begin. All it needs is a pragmatic, resolute, and sincere push from the businessmen. From Asif Ali Zardari, Altaf Hussein, and the twenty million residents who want their City to become once again a peaceful, secure, and bustling city, this is the message. Peace and prosperity soon!

"There are a million ways to lose a work day, but not even a single way to get one back."

Tom De Marco and Timothy Lister


Majyd Aziz is a Karachi based Entrepreneur and a senior leader of the business community. He is a former Chairman of SITE Association of Industry, former President of Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and has held posts on the board various public organizations and companies.