CHINIOT, Dec 15: The people of Chiniot have been carving wood since long but their work became widely known when some of the artists constructed a wonderful wooden palace in the middle of the city in 1945, which is known as Umar Hayat Mahal.

Shisham and rose wood is used in furniture-manufacturing. The darker part of wood is separated as it is considered more durable, divided into wooden planes in different shapes and sizes and sent for drilling. The drilled pieces are then cut with the help of a locally invented machine called Chabakka.

Artisans have set up workshops in their houses where they carve various designs on wood using sharp knife-like tools that are known as Chappu.

They belong to the Tarkhan caste, which has been engaged in wood-carving since long. A Tarkhan child is also trained in the art of carving (Munawwat) besides his schooling. Therefore, the rate of unemployment is very low among the members of this caste.

The carved pieces of wood are then rubbed thoroughly with a sandpaper. The pieces are then carried to bigger workshops where they are fitted together with the help of glue and nails. On some furniture items, brass work is also done to increase their beauty.

The final phase is of polishing. Polish is of various grades, colours and types. It not only increases the grace of an item but also protects it against rust, dust and termite.

The artisans are not much literate so they are unaware of the rules of marketing. Moreover, they are also conservative in nature. They are not paid well despite the fact that their work is recognized and sold all over the world. Those who reap the benefits include exporters and showroom owners in big cities like Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi, who offer little remuneration to workers but sell the furniture at high prices.

According to a careful estimate, about 50,000 workers are engaged in furniture-making, including about 10,000 children of five to 15 years of age.

Some workers have left Chiniot for Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad in search of better wages. In Karachi, hundreds of workers have formed a colony called Chiniotian Da Mohallah.

Four years ago, a local PCO owner started providing internet service. He went from shop to shop and evaluated the benefits of advertisement via internet, but nobody listened to him. The workers were content with their earnings and did not want more.

On the other hand, some educated and enthusiastic manufacturers, who wanted to start exporting their work on their own found it difficult to get government’s patronage for their plans.

Malik Khalil Ahmad, an exporter and the president of an association of those engaged in small-scale furniture-making, said there was a monopoly of a few exporters in this sector. In exhibitions arranged by the Export Promotion Bureau abroad, the real manufacturers belonging to Chiniot are not selected due to pressure of the influential, he said. “Moreover, no bank of Chiniot deals with exporters, who have to go to other cities for banking transactions. There is also no chamber of commerce in the industrial city.”

He said the government and the EPB should pay heed to this industry and launch a special campaign to boost the export of furniture — which despite being famous all over the world has very little share in the export of Pakistan.

Supplier Malik Jawed Ahmad said the government should announce schemes like export refinance and soft loans for exporters, declare the furniture industry a part of the cottage industry and give it all the benefits and facilities that were given to the industry of sports goods and surgical instruments in Sialkot. He also demanded an information office of the EPB in Chiniot.

Businessman Afzal Bhatti said the government should start scrutinizing the work of furniture manufacturers and suppliers, print special catalogues and send those to trade offices abroad. The advertisement would facilitate the local exporters. He also demanded a quality control institution, because some fraudulent exporters were not only depriving the government of its share in the business but were also damaging the country’s image abroad.

This city, its traditions and its art should be updated in accordance with the demands of the 21st century, which would not only give the government a good source of foreign exchange but also attract a number of foreign tourists.

Opinion

Editorial

Political stunt
Updated 07 Aug, 2022

Political stunt

The former PM is attempting to make a very expensive point with his decision to contest all 9 NA seats going up for by-election.
Monsoon emergency
07 Aug, 2022

Monsoon emergency

AS another wet weather system has entered Pakistan, and the federal government has declared a “monsoon...
Taliban’s denial
07 Aug, 2022

Taliban’s denial

THE Afghan Taliban’s recent statement denying any knowledge of the now deceased Al Qaeda chief Ayman...
Economic restructuring
Updated 06 Aug, 2022

Economic restructuring

All the policies and tough decisions implemented by the PML-N-led ruling coalition have so far translated to firefighting.
Kashmir’s plight
06 Aug, 2022

Kashmir’s plight

THREE years after the BJP-led government in New Delhi made its ill-advised move to do away with the autonomous...
Extinction risks
06 Aug, 2022

Extinction risks

WE may be at risk of losing our natural treasures before even getting a chance to truly appreciate them. According ...