Minister of State for Commerce and Textile Industry Engr Khurram Dastagir said that the government believed in trade and economic diplomacy and had evolved a multi-pronged strategy to enhance economic and trade relations with the whole world, especially the regional countries. While addressing the members of Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry here on Thursday, the state minister said that grant of GSP Plus Status to Pakistan by the European Union (EU) was a landmark achievement of the government and people deserved congratulation for this unprecedented success. He said that concessions were allowed time and again by the western countries but for grant of GSP Plus Status, Pakistan had fulfilled all requirement and qualified for the status which was for ten year period - from January 2014 to January 2023.

He said that it was a greater success of Pakistan on the international diplomatic level wherein we got inculcated to the European countries that Pakistan had smooth record of democratic transition of government, economic strength and stability was integral to overcome the terrorism in the country. “It is for the first time in the country’s history that a government has raised the slogan of ‘Trade not Aid’ which reflects the government priorities,” Dastagir pointed out.

He asserted that the government had been working hard to enhance economic and trade relations particularly with the regional countries, adding that the government wanted to go beyond India to Far-East countries. The state elaborated that the government was firm to enhance exports of Pakistan through its policy of economic diplomacy and tangible steps were being taken to remove difficulties and hurdles to enhance exports as much as possible.

Eng Khurram Dastagir claimed that a new horizon of economic prosperity had ushered in where people were being taken along as partners in the road to progress of the country. He argued that real democracy laid in empowering the masses and honouring their will and opinions in the decision-making. On the occasion, he announced giving representation to FCCI in various Boards and Standing Committees of the Ministry of Commerce and Textile Industry. He informed that briefings and seminars were being organised to sensitise and create awareness among exporters on GSP Plus procedures and monitoring mechanism.

The state minister emphasised that export of value added textile was being encouraged as it was more cost-benefitting in terms of electricity usage and fetching foreign exchange and a package was in hand for this sector. Khurram Dastagir assured that he was endeavouring hard for the release of refund claims of exporters in the context of R&D, Sales Tax and Duty Draw Back.

He said that successful completion of projects under public-private partnership had set a glowing example and both the public and private sectors could take the nation economy to new heights through this example. He said that import of LNG would be launched from November, 2014 to resolve the problem of gas shortage to industries. He said that he would personally talk to the Punjab Chief Minister for allocation of land for Faisalabad Expo centre with necessary funds from the export development fund.

Earlier in his welcome address, FCCI President Engr Suhail Bin Rashid congratulated the Ministry of Commerce, the PML-N Government for the milestone achievement of GSP Plus Status. He emphasized on the export diversification, enhancing trade with regional countries, economic and trade diplomacy , sustained economic policies and urged for the release of refund claims of exporters stuck up with various government departments to improve liquidity position of industries to produce trade surplus in the context of GSP Plus.

He emphasized on setting up of Faisalabad Expo centre, representation to FCCI in the export development fund and the TDAP Boards, participation of FCCI in foreign trade delegations, signing of more PTAs and FTAs with North America, European and Far East countries. MNAs Mian Abdul Manan and Haji Akram Ansari, former FCCI presidents - Sh Muhammad Khalid Habib, Mian Aftab Ahmed, Mian Javed Iqbal and Muhammad Ayub Sabir, FCCI Senior Vice President Riazul Haq, Vice President Ch Muhammad Asghar, Sh Muhammad Bashir, Seth Mehmood Akbar, Engr Rizwan Ashraf and Rana Sikandar Azam also shared their views on the occasion.

Illegal sand mining from Jhang branch canal continues: Illegal sand mining from Jhang branch canal closed for de-sitting, continued unchecked. Addressing a press conference at Gojra here on Tuesday, Irrigation Employees Power Union leader Allah Bakhsh Sial demanded the Irrigation Department and Toba District Administration, Faisalabad and Chiniot officials to take action against alleged thieves.

He said that canal had been closed under rotation schedule for a month and during the period it was continued unabated despite laws prohibiting the practice. Excessive in-stream sand mining has now begun to threaten some of the banks and shoulders of the canal. He claimed that whenever lower grade staffers of the Irrigation Department stopped the thieves from digging sand from the canal, they attacked and tortured them.