LAHORE – SALMAN ABDUHU - Despite promise and formal approval, the Ministry of Commerce has not released much-needed matching grant for a feature film made by the carpet industry with an aim to convince the international buyers to import Pakistani handmade carpets by portraying the soft image of the country in the said film.

The movie will especially convince the foreign buyers that hand-knotted industry is free from bonded labour, besides promoting women entrepreneurship in the country, it was learnt.

The industry sources disclosed that Ministry of Commerce and Trade Development Authority of Pakistan, whose task is to facilitate exporters and build soft image of the country abroad with a view to enhance export, have become the hurdle in the way of Pakistan Carpets Manufacturers & Exporters Associations (PCMEA) to launch an international movie on domestic carpet industry to build the image of Pakistan.

Sources said that around two years back, with a view to implement the vision of the Federal Minister of Commerce Makhdoom Amin Fahim to make a movie to support the waning hand-knotted carpet sector, the commerce ministry had agreed to issue matching grant of Rs10 million to PCMEA from Export Development Funds.

On the advice of the federal minister, the Association nominated a right personality of Maj (r) Akhtar Nazir Cooki for this sensitive task, they added.

According to them, Cooki is the most suited person for this mission, as he is the talented son of Pakistan film industry pioneer Nazir, who made the history in country’s showbiz sector not only in acting but also by producing and directing great movies.

Apart from being inborn artist, Cooki has also a long experience in carpet industry, as he is former chairman of the PCMEA as well as the head of World Handmade Carpet Association, they disclosed. As per sources statement, in view of his services in the field of carpet sector, he is also recently conferred with the honorary citizenship of China, which is very rare example not only in Pakistan but also in the world.Industry sources said that presently the amount of Rs10 million is laying in the joint account of PPA and TDAP but the commerce secretary is not ready to release amount despite the fact that he has full authority to issue the fund under PAPRA rule 42 D.

Sources said that Cooki has almost completed the movie, bearing the whole expenditure from his own pocket which amounts to around Rs5 million.

The theme song of the feature film is presented in major languages of the world including German, Spanish, French, Chinese and English. They said that theme song has been presented in China as well as in Germany, which has won so much applause, they added. Not only this, inspiring by the movie, the Chinese government offered Cooki $280,000 while India offered him $300,000 just to promote the carpet industry of these countries along with Pakistani building image.

But this Pakistani patriot preferred his own country, refusing the huge offer flatly.

Sources said that Ministry is refusing to issue the grant from exporters’ own fund, as the government collects cess from the earnings of the exporters.

Moreover, the secretary commerce is also stressing the need for bidding for film making. This is clearly lame excuse, as there is no need of bidding in this work, as the movie, involving art as well as technology never requires any bidding under the PAPRA rules, industry sources argued.

When contacted, Akhtar Nazir Cooki told The Nation that the movie will convince the foreign buyers, who after conceiving wrong propaganda, hesitate to visit Pakistan. Pakistani carpet industry, which is one of the largest environment-friendly sectors, providing jobs to over 1.5 million people without polluting the atmosphere. The movie will tell them that carpet sector is also helping improve literacy rate in the country by establishing schools for workers’ children, providing free of cost education.

He said that the movie, which is directed by the awards winner filmmaker Syed Noor, will not only facilitate the foreign entrepreneurs but also highlight the soft image of the country. It will accelerate trade and investment, besides boosting the declining tourism sector, he maintained.

Appreciating the services of the federal commerce minister, Cooki said that in order to strengthen the efforts to promote Pakistan’s soft image, the minister had directed the TDAP officials to allocate substantial amount from Export Development Fund to make a movie in this regard. He said that the minister was of the view that the feature film should represent a significant opportunity for exporters to enhance their brand visibility and to promote new and existing products.

He said that the ministry, which should have established partnerships with carpet industry to expand market share and develop domestic commerce, has become a main hurdle in this task.

He appealed to the ministry to issue the promised matching grant for early launch of the movie to exhibit the untapped potentials of Pakistan in the world market.

Pakistan has to make an extra effort in promoting carpet exports from Pakistan as the energy crisis, corruption and terrorism have sent a bad message abroad, he emphasised.