In order to avoid unrest in Punjab during the peak summer season, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has constituted a cabinet panel to resolve issues faced by the industries after the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (Aptma) took a U-turn on its reconciliatory policy.
The premier took the decision after the Aptma –body working to safeguard the interests of textile millers – launched a media campaign against the government’s policies, particularly on exchange rate. The fresh campaign was in contrast to an earlier advertisement that got published in mid-March, in which Aptma, while surprising many, appreciated the strengthening of the Pakistani rupee.
The central point of the latest media campaign is the veiled threat of shutting down industries in Punjab – the basin of the ruling party, according to analysts.
The premier constituted a five-member Ministerial Committee while chairing the cabinet meeting, according to officials. The committee will be comprised of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Water and Power Minister Khawaja Asif, Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir, Textile Minister Abbas Afridi and Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
While talking to The Express Tribune, the textile minister confirmed that he had raised the plight of the textile industries during the cabinet meeting. He said the premier has constituted the committee to resolve the issues faced by the textile industries.
The central and southern Punjab are facing more than 12-hour a day loadshedding after a sudden surge in demand due to rising temperatures. This has once again started affecting the industries in Punjab.
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On March 14, the Aptma surprised many when it issued a message of “congratulations on the historical rupee appreciation from Rs108 to a dollar to Rs98 a dollar”. Economic theories suggest that the appreciation of local currency makes the country’s exports uncompetitive. The Aptma’s decision to congratulate the government had raised eyebrows of many stakeholders.
According to sources in Aptma, a federal minister had asked the newly appointed chairman of the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) to use his influence over his son who is an office-holder of the Aptma Punjab region. The outcome was a message of reconciliation and appreciation.
But Gohar Ejaz, the Group Leader of Aptma, denies this. He said the decision to congratulate the government had been taken by the Aptma cabinet. He said the body genuinely felt that Dar had done a good job by restoring exchange rate stability. Ejaz said the stability was good for bringing in foreign investment.
But this felicitation was short-lived. After just 34 days of the first message, the Aptma felt the heat of the appreciating rupee and has now put demands in front of the government, which it deems necessary to restore industries in Punjab.
It has claimed in its “SOS” message that the revaluation of the rupee has caused losses and that the energy crisis has also forced them to lay off employees.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 20th, 2014.