Governor Sardar Mehtab Ahmad Khan has announced the reopening of larger industrial units in Bara, Khyber Agency. The move was appreciated by industrialists, who—demanding more—asked that the area be turned into an economic zone.
The decision was taken at the Governor House on Saturday. The meeting was attended by Senator Ilyas Bilour, Senator Mohsin Aziz, office-bearers of Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chamber of Commerce and Industries, high-ranking officials and leading industrialists.
Mehtab said the aim behind reviving 150 closed industrial units was to ensure commercial activity in the area, to provide employment opportunities to thousands, including the internally displaced persons (IDP) who have successfully been repatriated and to attract national and international investment.
By now, he said, 280,000 people of 40,000 families had been repatriated and all those from Khyber Agency would be home by the end of August. He announced an amount of Rs1.5 billion for the reconstruction and provision of infrastructure in the tribal areas.
Industrialists welcomed the idea but demanded the government open an economic zone in the area.
Talking to The Express Tribune, prominent industrialist and former president of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chamber of Commerce and Industry Dr Mohammad Yousaf Sarwar said, “No businessman or industrialist would risk his life and capital in an area which is not just unsafe but where even banks refuse to give out loans.”
Sarwar added, “If the government is serious about the restoration of these units, then it should set up a proper economic zone and announce certain kinds of incentives to industrialists, including security of life and capital.”
Businessman and another previous president of KPCCI Zahidullah Shinwari stated, “The governor has reached arrangements with the Tribal Electric Supply Company for uninterrupted power supply to the units, including separate feeders.” He pressed the governor to announce the packages for restoration first and foremost.
A senior officer at Governor House, requesting anonymity, said the government would provide all possible assistance, facilities as well as guarantee security to the investors and industrialists.
Apart from a power crisis in Bara, the complete downfall of law and order as a result of militancy and clashes between them and security forces led to the closure of the 160 industrial units involved in producing steel, plastic, ghee, fabrics and cigarettes in 2007. This had rendered thousands of people from the region unemployed.
The revival of industry will focus particularly on the steel and fabric factories.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2015.