Whither Pakistan Industry?
Pakistan ranks as number 43-44 among the countries of the world in nominal GDP, 26th in GDP with purchasing power parity and number 55 in the world in factory output. So where is Pakistan’s industrial sector headed? It accounts for only about 24% of GDP. Despite paucity of energy, cotton textile production and apparel manufacturing are the country’s largest industries, accounting for above 60% of merchandise exports and almost 40% of labour force. Cotton and cotton-based products account for 61% of export earnings. Other major industries include cement, fertilizer, edible oil, sugar, steel, tobacco, chemicals, machinery and food processing. The country has immense reserves of various minerals and natural resources, such as gypsum, limestone, chromites, iron ore, rock salt, silver, gold, precious stones, gems, marble, copper, coal, graphite, sulphur, fire clay and silica. The salt range in the Punjab has the largest deposit of pure salt found anywhere in the world. Balochistan has substantial mineral, oil and gas reserves which have not been exploited to their full capacity or fully explored. It also has significant quantities of copper, chromite and iron and pockets of antimony and zinc in the south and copper and gold in the far west. Natural gas was discovered near Sui in 1952. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa accounts for at least 78% of marble production in Pakistan which is home to some of the purest grades of marble, granite and slate in the world. The Punjab province and Sindh too are blessed with many industries in central Punjab and Karachi.
Pakistan is also a major producer of bituminous coal, sub-bituminous coal and Lignite. Coal mining started in the British colonial era and has continued to be used by Pakistani industries after 1947. The country has emerged as one of the leading countries - seventh among the top 20 in the world after the discovery of huge lignite coal resources in Thar, Sindh. Pakistan produced about 45 tonnes of Uranium in 2006. Pakistan has huge potential for the technology industry, which includes software development and electronics manufacturing. The Pakistan Aeronautical Complex has started manufacturing of Tablet PCs, Ebook readers and notebooks in collaboration with INNAVTEK of China. Software development also has a huge potential, which is being utilized as a result of numerous projects initiated by the Pakistan government. The country has extensive energy resources, including fairly sizable natural gas reserves, coal and a large hydropower potential. However, the exploitation of energy resources has been slow due to a shortage of capital and domestic political constraints. Domestic petroleum production totals only about half the country’s oil needs. The short-term national energy demand has expanded significantly since 2001 due to massive rise in sales of durable goods like refrigerators, washing machines, split air conditioners, etc.
A new and dynamic global halal industry is also thriving around the world and Pakistan has the potential to become its main player. The halal brand is not only relevant to food but also pharmaceuticals and fashion including make-up, leather bags and shoes. In countries like Malaysia, the government is pushing hard to make the country a global hub for halal products. Pakistan is another country where relevance of the halal industry is even more important. Malaysia is a country with approximately 29 million people, with about 60% Muslims. Pakistan, on the other hand, has a population of nearly 200 million, of which some 905 are Muslim. Furthermore, unlike Malaysia where production and consumption of non-halal items like alcoholic beverages and other food items are readily available, in Pakistan the consumption of alcohol is banned except for a tiny non-Muslim population. Hence, Pakistan stands a better chance of emerging as a global hub for the halal industry. With so much potential for industrial growth and having one of the world’s largest populations, Pakistan stands poised to become a reasonably good-sized industrial nation, provided the necessary requirements in terms of energy, investment and incentives are provided. It is true that agriculture is the country’s major activity and Pakistan has been classified as being primarily an agricultural nation but today’s exigencies are such that the country’s industrial base must be developed , especially considering it is blessed with the right inputs.