“Sialkot needs massive development but governments, both Federal or Provincial, are not providing financial resources despite the importance of Sialkot as a leading center of seven important export sectors. The Sialkot private sector has contributed its own funds to repair roads, build an Airport, set up schools for children of workers, and are now establishing a state of art hospital. Unfortunately, the persistent question is that if private sector is so much involved in developing Sialkot and providing a large employment base, then why is the government not doing enough for this city of Allama Iqbal”. This passionate statement was made by Ashraf Malik, President Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry, while addressing the World Day Against Child Labor event organized by Employers Federation of Pakistan in association with SCCI and ILO.
Zaki Ahmed Khan, Vice President EFP, Tahir Javed Malik, Director EFP, Syed Nazar Ali, Officer in Charge EFP, Fasihul Karim Siddiqi, Advisor and Consultant EFP, Ch. Naseem, President Punjab PWF, and Asad Ali, Deputy Director Labor Sialkot also spoke at the event and highlighted various aspects of industrial relations and human resources development.
Mr. Malik criticized elements including some local and foreign NGOs keep on defaming Pakistan, especially at foreign forums. Moreover, he called for reducing the number of government agencies who have become detrimental to the progress of industries. He advocated the need for monitoring by EFP and Pakistan Workers Federation of labor welfare bodies so that transparency is maintained and corruption is controlled.
Ismail Suttar, President EFP, in his welcome address, said that EFP is playing a prominent role in elimination of Child Labor and complimented Sialkot industrialists for eliminating Child Labor in their plants. He called for more government focus on the economy, especially the manufacturing sector. He suggested that a strong foundation is imperative especially in health, education, and skills development and vocational training so that the youth are ready to enter the industries confidently.
He added Sialkot Employers and Workers are role models for rest of Pakistan and that the Sialkot model should be replicated in other cities. He said that emphasis should be on exports and disclosed that during the pandemic crisis, while exports of Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia etc. decreased substantially, the exports of Pakistan has shown a substantial increase.
Saloman Rajbanshi, Officer in Charge of ILO Islamabad Office, in his speech said that times are very difficult due to COVID but he saluted the commitment of Pakistani employers and workers in maintaining sustainability despite this crise. He also praised EFP for advocacy in Child Labor elimination. He said that long closures of schools may lead to increase in Child Labor and this situation must be controlled. He reminded that the status of GSP Plus granted by EU entails full compliance of International Labor Standards including elimination of Child Labor.
Majyd Aziz, Former President EFP, in his speech said that he has visited many Sialkot factories and has observed that Sialkot industrialists are committed to increase productivity, comply with International Labor Standards, enhance Corporate Social Responsibility, and focus on quality exports. This is the recipe of successful industrialization.
Zahoor Awan, General Secretary Pakistan Workers Federation, said that social dialogue is essential for complying with all standards including elimination of Child Labor. He said that EFP and PWF are working together with ILO and the government to introduce the Better Work Program that would ensure compliance of all standards, increase productivity, provide security to workers, and assist Pakistani textile exporters to improve their relationship with global brands.