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ISLAMABAD: Inter­national brands continue selling Pakistan-origin goods due to non-finalisation of Geographical Indication (GI) Law that aims to protect commercial heritage of the country’s products including Basmati rice and Ajrak.

The law is pending for the last 17 years due to differences between large lobbies leading to failure of market place regulation.

However, the Federal Cabinet in its meeting held early this week has authorised the Commerce Division to initiate legislation on the GI Law.

A senior officer in the Commerce Division told Dawn that Prime Minister Shahid Khaqqan Abbasi had directed the officials to speed up the process to finalise the draft law.

The draft law will again be submitted to the cabinet for approval before being presented to the parliament. “We will send the draft to the Law Division for vetting,” the official added.

The GI Law can protect various products including Hunza apricots, Charsadda/Peshawari chappal, Multani halwa, Sindhi Ajrak, Sargodha’s kinno, Kasuri methi, Sindhri mango, Dir knives, Swat wild mushrooms, Nili-Ravi buffalo, Chaman grapes, Pashmina shawls, etc.

The delay in the legislation is costing heavily to the exchequer because of the unintended theft of intellectual prosperity in GI’s belonging to Pakistan.

For example, Morocan Ajrak skirts were sold by international retailer H&M earlier this year. Dolce & Gabbana introduced food processors bearing the funky Pakistani truck art while Paul Smith launched Peshawari chappal.

A draft law was already written in consultation with all stakeholders but was placed on the back burner for the past one year.

The Commerce Division has been working on the GI Law since 2000. The draft has been vetted many times by the authorities concerned, but no action has been taken so far.

As per the proposed law, the term of registration of an authorised user of a geographical indication will be for a period of 10 years from the date of filing of application for registration. This exclusive right over the use of GI will be extendable for another 10 years.

GI is an intellectual property right (IPR) which gives the right to a person over the creation of their minds for a certain period of time.

Member countries of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) need to give protection to GIs under Article 22-24 of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) agreement.

Unless Pakistan provides GI protection, it cannot obtain the same for its own goods in other countries that have the GI Law.

The GI Law covers a wide variety of products that include industrial, agricultural, horticultural and others. In the absence of the GI Law, Pakistan cannot claim exclusive GI of Basmati rice.

Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2018