History of Lower Dir
Few cities in Pakistan can claim to contribute as extensively to a country’s export revenues, industrial growth, and global reputation as the city which is now popularly known as “The City of Opportunities”. Sialkot is an important economic center and the only export-oriented city in Pakistan. The development of local cottage industries in Sialkot has assumed the model status for the developing world. Thousands of small and medium enterprises, situated in and around the city, are engaged in honoring their global commitments for the export of value-added goods. The city is earning over 2.0 Billion US Dollars annually through its exports in various sectors ranging from Sports Goods, Surgical Instruments, Leather Products, Gloves of all sorts, Textile items, Sports Wear, Martial Art Uniforms & Accessories, Musical instruments, Military & Police Uniforms Accessories, Highland Outfitters, Badges, Kitchen Ware, Hollow Ware to Knives and Cutlery items.
Besides exceptional achievements in business, the corporate sector of the city has exclusively emerged beyond Corporate Social Responsibility and made a historic contribution to social sector development and human welfare by initiating projects which have given the city a unique status among the industrial hubs in the world. And all of what has been achieved so far, and what the people of the bustling city of Sialkot aspire to achieve, is due to the presence of the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce & Industry, a trade body that has gone beyond the notion of export promotion and has set an example for the other trade associations to follow. SCCI is, without a doubt, Pakistan’s most effective Chamber. It would be hard to find a chamber anywhere in the world that has so significantly transformed its area of jurisdiction in terms of infrastructure and scope of social welfare.
Since its inception in 1982, the SCCI has consistently and successfully advocated the interest of its members and worked for the solution to problems faced by them in running and expanding their businesses. On top of that, it has also proven to be a fertile nursery for numerous important initiatives undertaken collectively by the city’s business community as well as a useful forum for their execution. Before the SCCI, the local business community faced many constraints and found it difficult to ensure fast-paced industrial growth. The reason for this very slow progress was that the fact no trade body was there to give protection to the interest of the local industrialists.
The said Association provided progressive and appreciative services to the business community. There were 1000 firms registered with the association within a span of seven years up to 1982. Owing to the efforts of the said Association, most of the Government regulatory offices were shifted to Sialkot, but because of the bureaucratic attitude of the Government functionaries, the decision on most of the cases faced pendency.
Given the problem and difficulties of the business community of Sialkot, the urgency of constituting a Chamber was widely felt, which could provide a more prestigious and dignified forum to the local business community and effectively take up the issues with Government for redressal. It was decided by the pioneers of the local community to get the existing Association to the level of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Association adopted the necessary resolution in the meeting held on 12-12-1979 for taking up the matter with the Ministry of Commerce. Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry passed a similar resolution on 28-07-1981. The Sialkot Chamber was incorporated under Company Act 1913 vide License No. 24 dated 15-07-1982 issued by the Ministry of Commerce, Government of Pakistan under section 3 of Trade Organization Ordinance 1961 and was formally affiliated with FPCCI on 17-08-1982.
Today, The Sialkot Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCI), comprises of 16,000 plus active members including proprietorships, Associations of Persons (AOPs), Partnerships, and Corporations mostly involved in exporting high-quality products around the globe to over 100 International Brands. Being the apex trade body of Sialkot, the activities of the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry are manifold and multidimensional. It is watching and safeguarding the interests of the business community on one hand and helping the Government in the formulation of various trade policies through workable proposals, suggestions, and recommendations on the other. The global activities of the Sialkot Chamber have extended beyond all frontiers in terms of establishing business links among the locals and those at the far ends of the world. It keeps a close eye on the global business trends and provides information to the members accordingly. Through its proactive approach, the Sialkot Chamber has greatly contributed to the expansion of industries, the promotion of exports, and generating economic activity.
KEY FUNCTIONS OF THE SIALKOT CHAMBER
• Provision of the latest information on business and economy to its members for facilitation in business.
• Performing Advocacy & Lobbying role in the best interest of the Export Sector of Sialkot.
• Federal Budget Proposals to the Federal Government.
• Trade Policy Proposals to the Federal Government.
• New Markets Exploration by arranging Trade Delegations to International Avenues and Participation in International Exhibitions and Trade Fairs.
• Dissemination of Information & Training for capacity building of upcoming entrepreneurs.
• Interacting with Government/international agencies on micro/macro business issues and other policy matters.
• Arranging Seminars, Workshops, Conferences, etc.
• Corporate training programs for Members.
• Arranging meetings to solve issues between stakeholders & Government.
• Solving business disputes through the Mediation Committee.
• Establishing linkages with Academia.
• Facilitation to members in terms of Visa Applications.
• Provision of Special Incentives to members through a special arrangement with the Corporate Sector.
• Provision of Research-based services to its Members.
ACHIEVEMENTS OF SIALKOT CHAMBER
The Sialkot Chamber of Commerce & Industry has not only made its contribution towards the promotion of exports for Pakistan but has also contributed extensively to the social sector due to which Sialkot has become a role model for other cities in developing countries. The Social Projects have been taken up by the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce & Industry including but not limited to:
• SIALKOT DRY PORT TRUST.
The exporters of Sialkot joined hands to form Sialkot Dry Port Trust, which established the Dry Port in Sambrial Sialkot in 1985. It is a unique Project in the private sector in Pakistan.
• SIALKOT CITY DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM.
A similar initiative was taken by the exporters of Sialkot in 1999 to construct city roads by contributing 0.25% of their export proceeds under the Sialkot City Development Package. The collective efforts of the exporters prompted the Government to share with a financial contribution. All the main arteries in Sialkot have been developed into international standard roads.
• SIALKOT INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT.
Sialkot International Airport, the only project of its type in the country built by the private sector, is functional. International and domestic passenger and cargo flights are operating from the Sialkot International Airport. The project was initiated in the year 2001.
• CHILD & SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATION.
There hardly exists any example where the Business Community has set up an independent NGO within the Chambers to address the social issues of the industry especially Child Labour and Socially Responsible Entrepreneurship. The mutual harmony of the key partners of the Atlanta Agreement i.e. SCCI, UNICEF, and ILO, Child and Social Development Organization (CSDO) was established on 22 July 2002 as an independent body to address the issues of Child Labour, CSR, and social development in Sialkot. The Sialkot Chamber extends its full support to the CSDO. Its patronage is a major source of strength for this organization. It encourages its members to participate in CSDO as part of their social responsibility toward the protection of children and social development. Since the establishment of CSDO, WFSGI has been fully supporting the organization for the protection of children and promoting CSR practices in Sialkot.
• SIALKOT EXPORT PROCESSING ZONE.
Pakistan’s second Export Processing Zone has been set up at Sambrial-Sialkot. The project was inaugurated in 2002. The zone offers exceptional incentives for both local and foreign investors.
• SPORTS INDUSTRIES DEVELOPMENT CENTRE.
Another project of core importance for business promotion is the establishment of the Sports Industrial Development Centre. The project was initiated in 2006 to develop products for the industry and help it in facing the challenge of the mechanized ball and other such challenges. This project has been conceived and initiated by the private sector in coordination with the Government.
• SIALKOT BUSINESS & COMMERCE CENTRE.
To provide a common facility for displaying the products under one roof, Sialkot Business & Commerce Centre is under construction adjacent to the building of the Chamber. The project was started in 2007. This Centre would have all the necessary facilities of a Display Centre, so that the visiting dignitaries may have a glimpse of the Sialkot made products in one place, the facility which would surely play a positive role in the promotion of exports.
• SIALKOT TANNERY ZONE.
Sialkot Tannery Zone is being established to shift all the scattered tanneries in and around the city of Sialkot to a specific zone to control environmental pollution being created by the tannery effluent. The project was initiated in 2009.
• KHUD KIFALAT ROZGAR TRUST.
To provide financial assistance to the people with limited resources and to help them earn respectfully, the Chamber has initiated the project of “Khud Kifalat Rozgar Trust” through the contribution of the business community. The trust was formed in 2010. The financial assistance is being provided in the shape of an interest-free loan to be paid back to the Trust in pre-agreed monthly, quarterly, annually, or biannual installments. The intent is the reduction of employment and alleviation of poverty in society.
• SCHOLARSHIPS TO DESERVING STUDENTS.
The Sialkot Chamber also provides scholarships to deserving students regularly. In this regard, annual scholarships are provided to around 25 to 30 students so that they may complete their higher studies including Engineering and Medical studies.
After the success of an International Airport and many projects for the well-being of society in general and industry in particular, the business community under the umbrella of SCCI, have now started the project of the city’s very own private Airline “AIRSIAL”. The project served to add to the vision of making Sialkot a self-sustainable city envisioned by the business leaders of Sialkot. Soon the world would see aircraft hailing from Sialkot representing the rich cultural heritage of the city and the industrial dynamism of the business community. The project was initiated in 2014 and is expected to be completed by mid-2020.
• KHAWAJA ZAKA UD DIN TRUST
Sialkot Chamber of Commerce & Industry is diligently engaged in welfare projects. It is striving as a leading organization in rehabilitating the victims of disasters, relieving the poverty-stricken people of agonies and miseries, and building their confidence in life afresh the world over.
In 2018, the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce & Industry conceived the idea of setting up Khawaja Zaka ud Din Trust. Named after the late Mr. Khawaja Zaka ud Din, a leader of the Industry, the trust collects charity, and donations from the members ensure that it reaches the rightfully deserving. This year, the Khawaja Zaka ud Din Trust, collected around PKR 20 (M) and distributed it among the key charitable organizations of Sialkot. On the other hand, Khawaja Zaka ud Din Trust is also initiating a state-of-the-art Ambulance Service for the people of the city. The trust was formed in 2017.
• STATE-OF-THE-ART HOSPITAL IN SIALKOT
Quality of health care is a key component of the right to health, and the route to equity and dignity for the public at large. Developing countries like Pakistan must deliver health services that meet quality criteria.
It is a sad fact that Sialkot a city that has transformed itself into a model city with Industrial Revolution and Mega Infrastructure Projects lacks quality health care facilities where people feel safe and get quality treatment as per International Standards. The irony of the matter is that the patients are asked to move to Lahore or Islamabad to get treatment and that too when matters have aggravated. We all know numerous cases where people have lost their lives just because they couldn’t find even the basic of facilities in Sialkot. Presently, Health facilities that exist in Sialkot often struggle to provide the rapid emergency care needed to manage complications and care for patients. Common causes include inadequate or unhygienic infrastructure; lack of competent, motivated staff; lack of availability or poor quality of medicines; poor compliance to evidence-based clinical interventions and practices; and poor documentation and use of information.
Sialkot Chamber of Commerce & Industry has officially initiated efforts for building a state-of-the-art Hospital in Sialkot with all the vital amenities complying with International Standards of Health Care. Sialkot would now also be remembered for creating one of the best Hospitals Pakistan has to offer. The project was conceived in 2016 and formally initiated in 2019 with a cost of PKR 7 (B).