PESHAWAR, April 23: The investment climate in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would remain gloomy with no hope for business activities picking up momentum until improvement in the security situation, according to business circles.

Talking to Dawn, they said that the cost of doing business in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in general, and in Peshawar, in particular, had gone further high as manufacturers and leading businessmen were spending substantial amount every month on personal security.

“Security situation has gone so bad that in their private discussions several industrialists pose this question that why they are living in Peshawar where there is no personal security, no social life with people holing up in their houses most of the time,” said Nauman Wazir, a steel manufacturer from Peshawar.

He said what was pity was the fact that there was no focused effort to rectify the situation in the absence of a central organisation responsible to make strategic decisions, which, he added, was very unfortunate.

Ziaul Haq Sarhadi, a former vice-president of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chamber of Commerce and Industry, when contacted, said that several leading investors with huge stakes in the Afghan Transit Trade (ATT) business had packed up from Peshawar and shifted their businesses either to Islamabad or Middle East.

“Well about 90 per cent of the transit trade has been done from Iran, creating huge negative economic impact on the trade and business circles in Peshawar,” said Mr Sarhadi who is also a director of Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Some of the investors, he added, secured their release, after being kidnapped, by paying huge ransom to their captors.

“In some instances, the businessmen paid Rs50 million to Rs100 million to their kidnappers,” said Mr. Sarhadi, adding “after securing their freedom they wounded up their business from Peshawar and shifted to Punjab and Dubai.”

Malik Niaz Ahmed, a leading industrialist of the Hayatabad Industrial Estate, Peshawar, said that none of the political parties contesting the elections had focused (in their electoral programmes) to improve the law and order situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa if voted to power.

“If anybody thinks that they would bring investment to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa without effectively addressing the root causes of insecurity over here they are, actually, not comprehending the problem,” said Mr. Niaz.

He said no new industrial unit had been set up at Peshawar’s Hayatabad industrial estate for a long time. Instead, industrialists, he said, in some instances, sold out their units’ machinery, shifting investment to Punjab.

“The industrial estate has become a hub of real estate transactions as the plots of land are changing quick hands with those behind the transactions making some good money,” said Mr Niaz.

Nauman Wazir said that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and its adjoining Federally Administered Tribal Areas involved some real opportunity to attract investment and create jobs by improving security.

“Khyber Pakhtunkhwa offers a unique opportunity to manufacturers from Punjab because we don’t have Sui gas outages in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, making it a big attraction for investors from Lahore and Rawalpindi,” said Mr. Wazir, “but unfortunately we could not materialise that advantage because of the level of insecurity over here.”

He said the industrial sector in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was not subjected to Sui gas loadshedding in line with a Peshawar High Court judgment.

Similarly, thousands of jobs could be created in Fata, he added, by establishing an industrial estate and introducing an effective regulatory framework.

“However, despite a long pending promise to establish an industrial estate at Fata, no progress has been made to this front as well,” said Mr. Wazir.

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