By Fakhar Alam
PESHAWAR, Dec 06 (APP): Known as land of three mighty mountains ranges of Hindukash, Himalaya and Karakoram, Pakistan is blessed with varieties of precious gemstones deposits and ranked fifth among world countries having its largest reservoirs in northwest of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit Baltistan, Azad Kashmir and southeast of Balochistan.
The country’s having best geographical location and unique mountains lofty ranges is gifted with abundance of precious and semi-precious gemstones including the world recognized most expensive Rubby, Emerald, Sapphire, Aquamarine, Topaz, Quartz, Zircon, Garnet, Turquoise, Peridot, Spinet, Tourmaline, Feldspar, Agate, Lapis Lazuli and Opal etc. mostly found in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Merged Areas (erstwhile Fata), Gilgit Baltistan, south west of Balochistan. (and become a centre of attracting for domestic and international gemstones lovers.)
khyber Pakhtunkhwa including its merged tribal districts is very rich in having huge deposits of the best, rare and valuable varieties of gemstones mostly existing in Mardan, Swat, Hazara, Chitral, Kohistan, tribal districts of Mohmand, Bajaur besides Gilgit, Chalas, Skardu, Hunza in Gilgit Baltistan, Nagarparkar in Sindh, Chagai, Lasbela in Balochistan and Neelum Valley in Azad Kashmir and becomes the preffered choices of the international investors and jewelry traders of Europe, South East Asia, CARs, US, SAARC and Gulf countries.
Mamoor Khan, Patron-in-Chief, All Pakistan Commercial Exporters Association (APCEA), Peshawar told APP that Pakistan has abundance of gemstones reservoirs beyond one’s imagination and the Government patronage was required to take full economic advantage of this hidden treasure for socio-economic well being of people.
He said border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan have huge gemstones’ deposits that have an easy access to Peshawar, making it a hub of gemstones trading both for domestic and foreign dealers, jewelers and mineral specimen collectors.
About two to three lacs people were directly or indirectly associated with gemstones’ business in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa including nearly 100,000 in Peshawar, he said.
“Emerald of Swat, Topaz of Mardan, Peridot of Kohistan and Rubby of Azad Kashmir have been acknowledged as one of the best in the world because of their unique colour, design, quality and their demand has increased manifold in the domestic and international markets,” he said.
He maintained that sometimes these precious gemstones were either lost during blasting due to lack of modern equipment with minor damage or their designs become out of shape due to use of sharp tools during the search process at airports that needed to be avoided.
In Peshawar, he said the majority of stone cutters and polishers manually do stone faceting on archaic machines, and a lot of time was being consumed to bring inherent luster and desired symmetry of stones as per requirement of domestic and international investors.
The famous Namak Mandi in Peshawar has been known as gemstones street from where gemstones are being exported to US, Hong Kong, Germany, England, France, UK, Thailand, SAARC, Central Asia and Gulf countries.
He said 20 gemstones exhibitions including 15 in Peshawar were organised in the country since 1994 by APCEA that attracted international buyers from across the world to explore and buy the expensive jewels of Pakistan.
He admitted that COVID 19 has made negative effects on gemstones’ exports besides shortage of excavation, cutting and polishing machinery were making adverse effects on gemstones production in KP .
Despite its rich reservoirs and raw materials, this latent wealth is yet to be fully untapped due to use of primitive methods in exploration, archaic tools, unavailability of modern technology and appropriate expertise of labourers, necessitating extensive training to entrepreneurs and minors, withdraw of taxes and financial resources for its optimal utilization for the Pakistan’s economic and social prosperity.
Moreover, despite many hurdles and challenges including past’s unrest in merged areas and COVID-19, he said APECA had contributed Rs8.406 million US dollars through the gemstone sector to the national exchequer in the last three years.
Gems and Gemological Institute of Pakistan (GGIP) at Peshawar needs to be strengthened in terms of establishment of a modern laboratory, equipment and allocation of special funds from Exports Development Fund (EDF) on the pattern of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan to properly train youth and enhance skills of minors imperative to enhance gemstones’ exports.
He also suggested establishment of Gemstones Development Authority (GDA) and inclusion of noted gemstones exporters from private sector and Govt departments in it to give upward push to gemstones exports.
The spokesman of GGIP told APP that over 4000 students, minors and labourers have been trained in gemstones and allied sectors since its establishment.
Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) statistics has revealed that the country has only $3.7 billion annual gems and jewellery exports and efforts were on to enhance exports by 10 percent every year through adaptation of innovative approaches and use of latest machinery in their excavation, cutting and polishing.
Pakistan has all the potential to generate additional revenue of 600 million US dollars from export of available 800,000 carat Ruby, 87,000 carat Emerald and five million carat Peridot per year.
Amir Goraya, Chief Executive Officer, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority (SMEDA) told APP that about Rs 51 billion had already been approved by Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Federal Cabinet for “Chota Karobar-o-Sanat Imdadi package” jointly prepared by Ministry of Industries and Production and SMEDA to provide financial support to SMEs through prepaid electricity and credit loss subsidy of Rs30 billion for the risk sharing facility for the State Bank of Pakistan’s refinance scheme to support employment and prevent lay-off of workers.
He said the proposed National SME Policy 2020 has been presented to the Prime Minister on October 8, 2020 with key recommendations and maximum facilities to SMEs including simplification of rules and regulations, provision of credits, facilitation of tax system and increasing exports.
He said the new SMEs policy would provide an inclusive roadmap based on timelines for increasing gemstones, marble, granite and tourism related industries’ exports besides promoting other infant industries.
The CEO SMEDA said Prime Minister Imran Khan would soon announce the National SME Policy 2020.
Rashid Aman, Provincial Chief SMEDA said a Gemstones City would be set up in Peshawar where all modern facilities including training to gemstones entrepreneurs, certification, polishing and cutting, use of machinery in exploration, marketing, packing as per international standards would be provided under one roof.
He said six thematic areas including regulatory reforms, marketing & communication, entrepreneurship, investment & innovation, banking & finance, skills development and job placement, economic infrastructure and five key prioritized sectors including women entrepreneurship, gemstones, mines & minerals, agri businesses, transport, trade services and light engineering were identified in the ECDF recommendations for investment in Merged Areas.
Javed Kattak, CEO KP Economic Zones Development and Management Company told APP that over 1700 applications and letter of intentions (LOI) including 700 from oversees Pakistani were received from different investors including gemstone, marble and mineral for SEZ Rashakai.
He said Chinese professionals would be invited to train our labour forces, minors and mining engineers in cutting, manufacturing, polishing and designing of gemstones and jewlary.
Abdul Karim Khan, Chief Minister KP Special Assistance for Industries told APP that gems and jewelry sectors was a precious source of Pakistan that would get an upward boom after implementation of SEZ at Rashakai in Nowshera district to be established on 1000 acres land in three phases under CPEC. He said SEZ Rashakai is ready for ground breaking and efforts would be made to facilitate SMEs entrepreneurs including mines, minerals and gemstones here.
He said Pakistan’s gems and jewelry sector was going to embrace more opportunities in terms of technology transfer and the country’s exports would touch new heights after SEZ Rashakai.
The CM aide said Afghanistan had shown keen interest to become part of CPEC and with its inclusion gemstones and regional trade would get an enormous boost between both the countries. The trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan was only about two billion dollars and Pakistan and the Central Asian Republic (CARs) was 0.14 billion US dollars, having a very limited share of the Gemstones during 2018, which was required to be enhanced for the benefit of people.
He said consultants were being hired for establishment of six new economic zones including Bajaur, Sariay Norung in Lakki Marwat and Dara Adamkhel Kohat where gemstones, mines, marble and other SMEs sectors would be encouraged.
He said use of modern technologies for cutting and polishing of gemstones would be encouraged and full cover to the gemstone sector has been given in the new Mines and Mineral Policy.
He said 18 border markets were established besides opening of four new routes on Pak-Afghan border including Torkham in Khyber, Kharlachi in Kurram, Angor Adda in South Waziristan and Ghulam Khan at North Waziristan for Pak-Afghan Transit Trade to increase trade flow besides increase trade volume of gemstones with Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics (CARs).