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‘Make in Pakistan’ – Our Engineering Potential

Engr. Khalid Pervez, Chairman IEEEP Karachi Center & CEO, KPWS Consulting
Published August 30, 2022
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TEXT: Pakistan is a highly blessed country from many considerations: huge reserves of natural resources, a wonderful combination of very long coastline, huge mountains,deserts, fertile land, seaports, railway network, and perhaps above all highly resilient mindset of its populace. These have been the ingredients for moving forward speedily to exploit full potential of what’s available and that’s how Pakistan moved from getting almost bankrupt immediately after creation to becoming one of the most rapidly advancing countries in the world in 60s, and from getting severed in half to becoming the sole nuclear power in the Islamic world.

Let’s have a look of what had been our gains in the domain of engineering:

• Well-equipped aviation industry with PIA competing with leading international airlines of 60s.

• First country in South Asia to launch indigenously developed rocket (~1961)

• Production of electronic components (transistors, diode, etc.) – early 60s.

• Shipbuilding and repair facilities.

• Highly advanced and automated (of that time) Pakistan Machine Tool Factory – late 60s.

• Production of special steels to be used for classified applications.

• PIA Precision Engineering Complex, handling multi-layer printed circuit boards.

• Production of telephony and carrier telephone equipment.

• Highly versatile Mughal Pura Railway Workshop.

• Huge dams and waterways.

• Local production of generating sets, electric motors, electricity meters, lamps, tube lights,lathe machines, milling machines, textile machinery, etc.and the list goes on.

With these wonderful memories, one is pushed to objectively ponder about the reasons of our dismal situation in all areaswhereas those who were far behind us such as Korea, Vietnam, Maldives, Thailand, Indonesia, etc. have moved far ahead of us in technological developments and sustainable economic growth. Keeping aside the domestic political and global trade and economic impacts, let’s look at the major factors which appear to be responsible for the extensive decay in our engineering manufacturing and development.

Perhaps the most important factor is the indifferent attitude of our policymakers, planners, high-ranking officials of various relevant ministriesand other institutional bodies who prefer imported items over those locally produced. It's this attitude which is vividly translated into various policy frameworks.

Consequently, thanks to theseskewed policies and indifferent policies, Pakistan has been pushed to heavily rely on imports for all sorts of products, systems, non-engineering materials, etc.for almost the last fifty years.This, combined with major policy instruments such as eliminating import of substandard products and material, absence of supportive import dutiesfor manufacturers, and absence of higher import duties for quality items manufactured locally, etc. has heavily impacted the local engineering industry.

Indeed, the menace offree trade enacted by the mighty economies to keep their supremacy intact is a dangerous scheme for developing countries and economies. But then, we need to be vigilant of such designs and regardless of it, ought to keep our national interests above anything else and develop on war footings medium and long term well-integrated and sustainable policies for indigenous capacity building for all such products and systems which could be easily manufactured locally. There’s a long list of all such items and systems which could be manufactured to very high standards within Pakistan.

The other highly important factor is expensive electricity, which is accompanied with outages and poor supply quality. All this is highly detrimental to production of quality products at competitive costs.Why do we have expensive electricity is a subject of detailed discussion.

Most probably, the most important factor in our nosedive, applicable to non-engineering domains as well, is complete absence of a system of accountability in public sector. Combine it with nepotism and disregard of merit and you’ve a reckless system of governance in which one is completely free to act in the manner one likes and best suits one personally! With the present system firmly established by all those who matter, how could the status quo be reversed so that Pakistan is again on the track of real progress cannot have a simple answer. But Pakistan badly needs it for its survival amid the present aggressively competitive global village.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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