The highly embarrassing episode of two Pakistani exhibition stands being shut down at the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) event in London has passed by without any questions raised as to who was responsible.
The Defence Export Promotion Organisation (DEPO) pavilion and Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) stand were both closed by the DSEI after it emerged that the products being offered contravened UK Government Export Controls and the event’s contractual requirements. The product in question was cluster munitions, which were listed on the POF’s promotional material.
According to an attendee at the three-day event, which was held last week, the cluster munitions were only noticed on the evening of the third day, when Green Party Member of Parliament Caroline Lucas saw them listed on the brochures and “created a huge fuss”. The pavilion representative appeared “entirely clueless” and could not adequately respond to Lucas’ objections.
“They were running around like headless chickens,” the attendee said. “They did not understand the weapons or the impact that this would have on the country’s profile.”
By the next morning, the event organisers had shut down the DEPO pavilion and POF stand, which also meant that other private companies, which were part of the Pakistani pavilion, suffered the consequence of the POF and DEPO error.
However, the Pakistan High Commission in London does not believe that this was a mistake, but a possible minor omission. According to Consul-General Nafees Zakaria, there were no brochures as Lucas claimed, nor was the product offered for sale at the stall.
“It was a standard list, not a brochure of POF items, and the ingredients were on it. They have taken it as a breach of contract that DEPO signed with the event organisers. While I haven’t seen the contract, I assumed it must have said that these items could not be listed on any promotional material,” Zakaria said.
Pakistan, Zakaria added, is not a signatory to the relevant Oslo Accord and the UK only ratified it last year. He said the issue has been referred to legal and technical experts in Pakistan, and the high commission’s response will be based on what they have to say.
However, it also appears that no one took immediate responsibility for what transpired in London. The army officers at the event, including POF chairman Lt Gen Shujaat Zamir Dar, reportedly turned on the DEPO pavilion manager and asked why he had not read the literature properly and asked why he did not know that cluster munitions were banned.
The other high-ranking officer at the event was Maj Gen Ijaz Hussain Awan, the director general of the DEPO. Dar could not be reached for a comment, despite several attempts. The secretary of the POF board and director of its export department, Munir Mohsin Syed, was unavailable to speak since he had just returned from London, according to his office.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2011.