LAHORE - Relations between India and Pakistan could not be improved until the Kashmir and water issues were resolved.

“Though Pakistani entrepreneurs are ready to compete with Indian products and look forward to gaining access to a very large Indian market but the government would have to ensure that a level playing field be provided as presently there are significant differences between two countries in terms of cost of doing business, bank lending rates etc.,” observed All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajiran central chairman Khawaja Shafiq.

Talking to The Nation, the noted trade leader, who has recently launched a political party of “Tajir Awam Movement” from his native city of Multan, opposed the Most Favoured Nation status to India, saying it will be detrimental to the Kashmir cause, besides turning Pakistan into a consumer market.

He said that the survival of the industry in Pakistan is at stake due to multiple reasons. Besides energy issues, availability of cheap smuggled goods is a grave threat.

“We need to tackle this problem at various ends including reduction in custom duties, tightening the surveillance on borders and enforcement of custom law and regulations at the entry points.”

Khawaja Shafiq said that the biggest problem faced by the business community, and generally the whole of Pakistan, is a severe shortage of energy.

He said that the problem of circular debt must also be tackled on sustainable basis.

He said that Pakistan has immense potential to produce cheap and reliable electricity through coal and proposed that sizeable funds be allocated for the development of Thar Coal project. He proposed that a handsome amount be allocated for construction of an LNG terminal at the port city of Karachi.

He also urged the government to address the law and order situation in Karachi especially, as law and order is a major cause for the decline in local and foreign investment in Pakistan. The APAT chairman also called for cut in non-developmental expenditures as adopting stricter financial discipline can decrease this deficit

The chairman urged the government to allocate Rs200 billion per year or 10 per cent of the total budget at the very least for hydel energy projects in order to produce cheap energy. He said that the Kalabagh dam is the most viable project to address the energy issue, but has unfortunately fallen prey to politics. He urged the government to ensure equal supply of electricity throughout the country as the province of Punjab is the worst hit by the electricity shortage and only last year it lost three per cent of its GDP due to power crisis.

He said the small and medium cottage industry was engine of the growth and in the developed countries it was facilitated to the maximum but in Pakistan circumstances were quite the other way round.

He said consumers of the efficient distribution companies with lowest line losses and the highest recovery ratio were being treated unfairly.

He said Punjab contributed nearly two thirds to the GDP of Pakistan, adding Punjab paid for 80 per cent of electricity bills and got only 60 per cent of electricity units, yet Punjab was being made the worst victim of injustice.