Lahore/FAISALABAD/MULTAN - All the textile industry associations observed a countrywide black day on Tuesday, calling upon the government to address the genuine issues of textile industry on priority basis to save it from further problems.

Mills owners and factory workers took out peaceful protests in front of mill gates throughout the textile hubs in Lahore, Karachi, Multan, Faisalabad and Peshawar.

They also displayed banners in and outside mill premises, carrying slogans against the anti-industry, anti-labour and anti-export policies. They expressed serious concerns over non-allocation of funds in budget for duty drawbacks on account of Rs180 billion textile package. They protested against anti-employment policies, extortion of Rs3.63 per kWh surcharge on monthly electricity bills, adamant delay in release of sales tax refunds and collapsing exports due to the high cost of doing business. It may be noted that thousands of textile workers have lost jobs and delay in payments of wages due to the closure of mills. This situation has invited hunger to their families and hence they are left with no option but to protest against the anti-industry policies of the government.

In Lahore, All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) announced holding of a convention of all associations of textile industry in Islamabad after Eid.

“We will hold a convention of all associations of textile industry in Islamabad after Eid to highlight the problems of textile industry leading to falling exports, capacity closure and job retrenchments,” he said and added that the textile industry leadership will finalize proposals for the Parliament.

“The industry dossier will be submitted by the industry leadership after a token march towards the Parliament,” said Syed Ali Ahsan, Chairman APTMA Punjab in a press conference at the APTMA Punjab office on Tuesday. Group leader APTMA Gohar Ejaz, Vice Chairman APTMA Centre Ali Pervez Mali, group leader Pakistan Textile Exporters Association (PTEA) Ahmed Kamal and former APTMA Chairman Ahsan Bashir also spoke on the occasion. They said the crisis-ridden textile industry has observed black day to lodge its protest against the government policies.

Gohar Ejaz stressed the point that it was not industry job to protest. “We want to contribute to the growth and prosperity of the country but we are being pushed to the wall,” he said. He pointed out that the industry was exposed to 10 hours a day loadshedding in a situation when the government was claiming of adding thousands of megawatt to the system. “There was no load shedding for industry when the electricity generation was merely 8000 megawatt before 2013,” he recalled. Group leader PTEA Ahmed Kamal assured APTMA leadership of the participation of all associations of textile industry in convention in Islamabad.

In Faisalabad, textile industrialists and labourers Tuesday staged a demonstration against anti-industry and anti-export attitude of the government, demanding release of refunds and supply of energy at competitive prices. Textile workers also staged demonstrations at their factories in different areas of Faisalabad and placed protest banners. Meanwhile, the textile millers observed ‘black day’ across the south Punjab region against the government's policies towards textile sector.

Briefing the newsmen in Faisalabad on Tuesday, Pakistan Textile Exporters Association Chairman said that the non-serious attitude of the government institutions is at the root of the problems affecting the country's textile industry, which has an annual export turnover of USD14 billion and employs millions of workers. Policymakers are not serious in resolving issues of the textile industry and the situation is worsening day by day and biggest job providing industry is heading towards disaster, he said.

Elaborating the consequences of the crisis, he said that industrial wheels have come to a halt as result of extreme cash flow crunch. Billions of rupees of exporters have stuck up in refund regime and they are badly deprived of liquidity. Government, at several times, made promises for payment of outstanding refunds but each time it could not fulfill its commitment. He said only Rs 1 billion were released in six months under PM package out of Rs. 180 billion. “Furthermore no effective measures are proposed in budget 2017-18 for industrial progress, increase in exports, reduction in production cost and enhancing the competitive edge of Pakistani goods in international market,” he deplored. Situation is becoming unbearable for industry and a constant inefficiency is plaguing the viability of production units.

Vice Chairman PTEA Muhammad Naeem termed high cost of raw materials and production inputs as major irritant in export growth. Claiming energy prices were 10% higher than the competing countries of India and Bangladesh, he demanded the supply of gas to export oriented textile industry at the price of Rs. 400/mmbtu.

Former chairman PTEA Khurram Muhktar urged the government to take cognizance of serious matter and step up to save textile industry from disaster as extreme cash flow crunch and high energy cost is holding it back from growing up to full potential.

While talking to journalists, APTMA Multan Chapter's Coordinator Anees Khawaja and Multan Chamber of Commerce & Industry (MCCI) President Khawaja Jalaluddin Roomi said that black banners inscribed with the industry’s demands and black flags were hoisted atop of industries to observe the ‘black day’. They claimed that all chains including spinning and value added sectors are on board and join the protest. They reiterated their demands i.e. implementation on PM’s export package of Rs180 billion for exporters in letter and spirit, clearing the outstanding refunds and bringing the energy prices comparable to other regional countries.

They said that PM Nawaz had announced incentives worth Rs180 billion on January 10, 2017 in a bid to boost the country's falling exports. But only Rs4 billion were earmarked in the budget 2017-18 after six months which is a big joke with the industry. The APTMA coordinator said that mere announcement will not increase the country' exports and the government should take practical measures to implement the package. He said "If we cannot buy raw material due to liquidity crunch, how will we increase exports," Anees added.