PESHAWAR - The most vaunted `Open Tender Policy' introduced by PTI govt for publication of Text Books has resulted in complete destruction of printing industry of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, causing closure of almost 97 per cent presses in the province besides rendering thousands of workers jobless.

A survey conducted after passage of one year of introduction of `Open Tender Policy' revealed that majority of printers in KP have sold out their machines on throughaway prices to meet their both ends while laid off workers have switched over to other professions including daily labour.

The decision of bringing about abrupt changes in the decades old in vogue printing contract awarding procedure with an open tender policy has badly impacted the printers who were left with no option except to close their businesses and lay off staff, says Iqtidar Ali Akhunzada, President Frontier Printers and Publishers Association.

"After announcement of new policy by KP government in 2015, around 80 per cent of textbook business has gone out of province, leaving the local printers in KP in a state of lurch," adds Iqtidar Ali Akhunzada.

Talking to APP, Iqtidar said thay local printers lost orders as they cannot compete with printers of other provinces on printing rate issue, lack of resources, locational disadvantage of KP from seaport resulting in high price of paper, ink, plates and other related commodities.

Furthermore, due to limited resources and printing orders in KP, the printers of this province are not professionally that much capable to compete with printers of other provinces whose skill is much improved because of lot of business there, he stated.

In KP, the major printing activity is printing of Text Book Board and that is also going out of the province, leaving us empty handed.

Successive provincial governments in the past gave protection to its printers by directing the KP Text Book Board to give allocation of printing to local printers on the basis of capability of each Press evaluated through number of installed machines, Iqtidar said.

The decision was taken in 1982 by then Governor KP, late Fazal Haq for the protection and growth of local printing industry, he added.

Local printers made efforts and within three to four decades developed the printing industry in KP under the umbrella of Textbook Board that provided the only major printing activity in the province.

No government had shown objection over the Text Book Board printing allocation process which not only ensured timely and up to standard printing of books but also generated livelihood sources for thousands of families in the province, Iqtedar added.

"The PTI's flawed and wrongly assessed policy resulted in destruction of printing industry and snatched the morsel from hands of our children by rendering thousands of people jobless," Iqtedar said.

President Frontier Printers Association informed that this year in 2016, out of 84 registered printers in KP, only 13 have participated in tender process.

Among these 13 printers only three or four would get some orders and remaining all the 80 to 81 printers will remove the dust from their machines through out the year.

"Our presses have turned into graveyard of machines while the workers are forced to starvation," comments Ahmad Siddique, an owner of a printing Press who sold out all machines of his Press within one year.

Ahmad said the loss received by printers is enormous because years of hard work and saving is gone to drain within one year by selling out our machines to meet the expenditure.

"I was a book binder and making a good living by earning around seven to eight thousand per week, but after closure of presses, we are forced to starvation," narrates Muhammad Sajjad, a book binder by profession and father of six.

My children complained that they are not getting proper food and money, but I could not explain to them that I have lost my job and profession too, he said.

Sajjad said he has turned from book binder to a daily wage labourer who earns only Rs. 400 per day and that too is occasionally.

Jan Muhammad, a printer Press owner who made an investment of around Rs 7 million through his 30 years struggle,is forced to sale out his Press and work at another printing Press.

On closed Press and stopped machines I cannot pay my rent of the building, wage of workers and finally decided to sale out Press to meet my expenditure and pay some business loan, Jan tells his ordeal.

"I started as worker and became an owner of a Press due to 30 years of my day and night struggle, but government's ill-planned decision takes me back to the initial stage of my profession," he said.

Provincial Minister for Primary Education, Atif Khan when contacted supported the decision stating open tender policy is introduced for making printing allocation process transparent.

"PTI came in the name of ensuring transparency and that is why we introduced this system which is in accordance with KPPPRA (KP Public Procurement Regulatory Authority) rules," he maintained.

When his attention was diverted towards miseries of printers and thousands of workers associated to it, he showed no concern over it and said he cannot answer to a question that is asked on basis of `sentiments'.

If a contractor can compete from Karachi in a road construction project, why not printers from other part of Pakistan can compete in printing tender competition, he stated.

When asked about the old allocation procedure under which printers of KP were getting printing orders, Minister alleged it was flawed favoring a group of printers.

Whereas, printers allege that the new tender policy is flawed and favorable to a group of business tycoon who have manipulated the whole Text Book Board printing business. 

Meanwhile, President Frontier Printing Press Association, Iqtedar Ali Akhunzada requested PTI chief, Imran Khan to take a review of the decision which has not only crippled the printing industry of the province but also affected livelihood

of thousands of people.

Imran Khan should give a patient hearing to the printers arguments instead of listening only to the Minister's point of view, he added.

"If this is a change for which PTI was voted, than it would be summarised as a very wrong assessment of people of KP," Iqtedar concludes.