LAHORE: If the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf succeeds in shutting the whole country down on December 18 in connection with its ongoing protest against the alleged rigging in 2013 elections, a complete lock-down for one day can cost approximately $0.6438 billion or Rs64.38 billion to the exchequer, calculations conducted by the Jang Group/Geo News reveal.
These calculations have been carried out by taking the US dollar-Pakistani Rupee parity at roughly Rs100 per one American dollar and considering that Pakistan’s Nominal GDP currently rests at average figure of all the 2014 GDP estimates of the IMF, World Bank and the CIA World Fact book.
In gloomy economic scenarios of heavily indebted nations like Pakistan, a loss of Rs64.38 billion in just one day is a bit too much.Now, this figure of Rs64.38 billion only includes documented production of goods and services, because the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) had estimated in August 2012 that the underground or parallel economy in Pakistan has grown to be more than half the formal/documented economy.
So, if one goes by the August 2012 FBR hypothesis, the one-day strike impact will actually stand at somewhere around the Rs129 billion region!There is no doubt that the financial impact of a one-day general strike on the exchequer cannot be estimated with complete accuracy in undocumented economies of countries like Pakistan, but if a nation fails to produce any goods and services on any given date due to a complete shutter down call, one can get some idea of how deadly can this mode of protest be.
It is pertinent to note that on January 29, 2013, Acting President Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) Iqbal Dawood Pakwala had revealed in presence of the Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah that a one-day strike in Karachi alone caused a loss of more than Rs10 billion to the country’s economy.
So, if one takes the Karachi-related figure given by the Acting FPCCI Chief Iqbal Dawood Pakwala as a base, the Rs64.38 billion countrywide loss on account of a complete single-day strike makes a lot of sense!
However, whatever the loss estimates of a complete one-day strike throughout the country are, there is no doubt that Imran Khan and his supporters would actually be swimming against the tide to bring all economic activities to a grinding halt, because Premier Nawaz Sharif’s hold on the country’s business community has always been phenomenal since he had assumed office as Punjab’s Chief Minister nearly 30 years ago during the military era of the late General Ziaul Haq.
Although Imran Khan might not be able to fully convince the Faisalabad traders to strongly back his shut-down call in protest against the alleged 2013 election rigging, the likely blockade of roads and markets is likely to hamper the business activities in Faisalabad whose GDP at Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) rests at around $45 billion, meaning thereby that a one-day strike in this city alone can cause an approximate loss of $123.3 million or Rs12.33 billion to the nation.
Even if the resultant chaos lasts for a few peak working hours on the traditionally busy first day of the week, it will naturally affect the banking transactions and booking and shipment of both local and export orders, besides disturbing the production schedules of the local industrial houses as not many workers might succeed in reaching their factories.
The number of public and private transport vehicles plying on the roads is also bound to fall below ther normal daily average, because there are chances that the Imran Khan’s loyalists might either clash with their PML-N rivals or engage in skirmishes with the law enforcement contingents deputed to protect life and property in Faisalabad’s famous eight markets around the city’s majestic 111-year old Clock Tower.
If the city remains tense on Monday, the Faisalabad Dry Port will also not be working at its fullest potential. It is imperative to note that the Faisalabad Dry Port handles a per annum volume of more than 33,000 export containers and 5,500 import containers, which again gives a fair idea of this city’s contribution to the exchequer.
It goes without saying that while a sizeable chunk of the millions of daily wagers in this city will not be earning during the day due to the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s strike call, attendance in schools, colleges, offices and hospitals etc will also be adversely affected.
Faisalabad’s GDP figure of $45 billion is mentioned in the city’s regional profile given by the apex national trade body of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), which represents 42 chambers of commerce, seven women chambers and 89 associations of trade and industry in the country.
According to a 2009 study conducted by the globally-acclaimed American taxation and business advisory firm Messrs Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Faisalabad’s GDP at Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) was resting at $35 billion in 2008-09.
Pricewaterhouse Coopers happens to be the world’s second largest professional services network in terms of 2014 revenues ($ 34 billion) and the sixth largest privately-owned organisation in the United States, has a network of firms in 157 countries and employs more than 195,400 people internationally.
This firm had estimated in its 2009 “Global City GDP ranking” that the city of Faisalabad was resting at third position in GDP rankings for Pakistan, behind Karachi ($78 billion) and Lahore ($40 billion).
According to the same study, Faisalabad’s GDP was projected to rise to $87 billion in 2025, at a growth rate of 5.7 per cent, which is higher than the growth rates of 5.5 per cent and 5.6 per cent predicted for Karachi and Lahore respectively.
According to the World Bank’s 2010 “Doing Business Report” of Faisalabad, the city was ranked as the best place do to business in Pakistan, and the second best location, after Islamabad, to start a business.
The FPCCI has estimated that Faisalabad’s textile industry constitutes more than 70 per cent of the total textile exports of Pakistan, which have a share of 68 per cent in total Pakistani exports. This makes Faisalabad’s share in total Pakistani exports more than 45 per cent—-a figure that cannot be neglected at all.
Also known as Pakistan’s Manchester due to its industrial importance, Faisalabad (then known as Lyallpur) used to have only five major industrial units in 1947.In 1943, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had visited Lyallpur to address a gathering of over two hundred thousand pro-Pakistan supporters at the Dhobi Ghat Grounds. But soon after inception of Pakistan, this agro-based industrial city had seen the country’s largest chemical plant and the largest man-made fiber producing mills installed on its soil.
Lyallpur was basically named after a British Empire Lieutenant Governor of Punjab, Sir James Broadwood Lyall (1838-1916), whose grandson Mark Lyall Grant had later served as a British Ambassador to Pakistan not very long ago.
In 1977, Lyallpur was renamed as “Faisalabad” in memory of the late Saudi monarch, King Faisal.Today, as an exclusive research conducted by the Jang Group/Geo Television Network reveals, this industrial hub houses more than 25 ginning units, 73 spinning units, 35 weaving units, 254 processing, printing and finishing units, 27 textile made-ups, not fewer than 302,143 power looms (both standard and automatic), 9,700 shuttle looms/air jet looms, 1,513 hosiery and knitwear units of all sizes, at least six sugar units, 110 foundry units, 126 sizing industries, 53 rice mills, 59 soap industries, 92 engineering units, nearly 100 chemicals and food processing units, 38 flour mills and 25 confectionaries.
Statistics compiled by the FPCCI and the Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry show that the city’s value-added and export-oriented power looms sector provides a 83 per cent share of cloth in the country’s total textile exports, besides being instrumental in providing jobs to millions of workers.
The third-time sitting Pakistani Premier Nawaz Sharif, currently faced with the challenge of countering his arch political rival Imran Khan’s street agitation tactics, was himself a master at giving extremely successful shutter-down strike calls during the two regimes of the late Benazir Bhutto.
One of Nawaz Sharif’s many successful and widely-publicised strike calls was witnessed more than 18 years ago on October 26, 1996 during Benazir Bhutto’s second tenure in office, when the Sharif-led Opposition had literally paralysed life in all the provincial capitals.
Many field reporters of the time, including this writer, can easily recall that the then Leader of the Opposition, Nawaz Sharif, had given this above-mentioned strike call against the Rs40 billion mini-budget, which had included Rs13 billion new taxes.
Nawaz Sharif’s strike call was backed by all major opposition parties, traders and transporters at a time when the $10 billion export target for the fiscal year 1996-97 was seemingly difficult to achieve, the rupee had mysteriously been devalued 20 times in just one year (1996 alone) by Benazir Bhutto’s economic wizards, the external debt obligations had surged steeply, the country’s forex reserves had declined from $3.54 billion to $1.3 billion in just 12 months and the Balance of Trade had worsened as importers all over the country were literally seen crying for help.
This October 1996 strike was termed highly successful by some prestigious foreign media houses like the Voice of America and the BBC etc.
Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain, one of Nawaz Sharif’s very close friends at the time of the October 1996 strike call, had dubbed this strike a “no trust move” against the Benazir government.
Nawaz Sharif and his colleagues had hinted that they would soon resign from the assemblies, but they were never required to do so as the Benazir Bhutto government was toppled by President Farooq Leghari on the night of November 5, 1996 and Prime Minister’s spouse Asif Ali Zardari was arrested from Governor’s House Lahore.
In recent times, Faisalabad has seen a few strikes though.
In 2006, all the trade organizations and religious scholars in the Faisalabad city had called a complete shutter down strike in 2006 to protest the publication of blasphemous cartoons in European print media.
In March 2010, the city’s civil judges had observed a pen-drop strike as a mark protest against the alleged torture of one of their colleagues at the hands of a lawyer.
In March 2012, protests against power load shedding were staged in the city by angry citizens who had resorted to come out on the streets and burn tyres.
In July 2010, the city’s power loom workers had agitated for a 17 per cent increase in wages by shutting down over one hundred thousand power loom units.
In September 2012, Faisalabad’s common citizens, political workers, activists of religious outfits, lawyers, students and people from all walks of life had staged hundreds of rallies and demonstrations against a blasphemous American film, and had warned the world to stop playing with the sentiments of the Muslims.