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Quaid-e-Azam Business Park: SEZ fit to be part of CPEC

QABP, a state-of-the-art industrial park, connected with M2 near Sheikhupura, is being developed by Punjab Industrial Estates Development & Management Company (PIEDMC) that, since 2002, has successfully developed Industrial Estates at Sundar (near Lahore) Multan, Bhalwal, Rahim Yar Khan and Vehari. Despite changes in concept (initially conceived as an Apparel Park for textile products) and impact of the corona pandemic, investments in the new industrial park have already surpassed one billion mark – after its soft launch by PM Imran Khan on July 18th this year.

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Almost all sectors of industry are taking a keen interest in the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) being built near Sheikhupura. More than 100 industrial plots have been sold with 30% advance payments as per policy. These industrial plots, in QABP, have been acquired by corporate entities related to Textile, Pharmaceutical, Plastic, Janitorial Products, Garments and Auto-parts. Even the newly emerging Nutraceutical (cosmetics) industry and Cold Storage industries have shown interest in the Quaid-e-Azam Business Park (QABP).

Read more: SEZs and why Pakistan needs them

QABP: Strategic Location, Size and Scope

While SEZ status is important for any industrial park, yet business’s interest in the QABP is being prompted more by its strategic location, it’s size, its scope and the modern features it offers for manufacturing, assembling and product selling.

QABP is located right at M2, near Sheikhupura. An access road will connect the industrial estate with M2, once an interchange is developed at Mansooranwalla village. Currently, construction work is being facilitated through connections with the Sheikhupura-Muridkay Road. QABP thus boosts easy access not only to human resources and markets of neighbouring Sheikhupura (population: 450,000) but too large industrial towns like Gujranwala (pop: 2 million) and the provincial capital Lahore (pop: 11 million).

QABP is thus ideally located near the Lahore – Islamabad Motorway (M-2) and is only 15 – 20 minutes away from Lahore Toll Plaza with a dedicated interchange (to be developed at Mansooranwalla village) improving its access manifold. QABP – according to estimates – may add up to 500,000 job opportunities. This then ties nicely with the overall vision of PM Imran Khan, and Punjab government that emphasizes upon SEZ’s to create jobs, transfer skills, promote industrial relocation from China and Pakistan’s inner cities.

Read more: China and the history of its Special Economic Zones

These priorities of the PTI government have already manifested in the changed focus of CPEC in its phase-II with greater emphasis on job creation, skill development, and socio-economic aspects. QABP’s Master plan shows a total area of around 1900 acres – including a 200-acre labour colony which will house 30,000 people.

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If 27-28 acres of the Bhamb village are also taken then QABP’s envisaged structures will be spread over around 1859 acres of land (as illustrated in “QABP as per initial development plan” diagram). It is thus bigger than Sundar Industrial Estate near Lahore. PIEDMC also developed Sundar in the early years of the Musharraf government, and it is considered one of the most successful Industrial Estates in Pakistan.

QABP: Industrial Features and Policy Attractions

The biggest attraction of Industrial Parks to Pakistani businesses is the continuous, uninterrupted availability of utilities like electricity, water and gas. In this area, PIEDMC has earned the trust of the industry through the successful establishment and operations of Sundar (near Lahore) and industrial estates in Multan, Bhalwal, Rahim Yar Khan and Vehari.

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At QABP work is proceeding at pace, 9km long boundary wall is 90% complete; gas has been made available. PIEDMC plans to obtain 250 MW electricity from LESCO (Lahore Electricity Supply Company), it will put up two separate grid stations (160 MW each) at each end of the QABP industrial park and intends to put up hundreds of transformers supplying two industrial plots from one transformer.

Read more: EXCLUSIVE: Planning minister Asad Umar explains how CPEC focus has shifted

Water will be provided from local aquafers; six tube wells will feed six overhead water tanks, but bigger industrial units will have provisions for their facilities for water. The industrial park will have its own “Effluent Treatment Plant” and will boost around 50-55 km of internal roads connecting the industrial units with markets, parks, mosques, labour colony, multiplex centre and with each other.

Some work has already started; PIEDMC sources believed that most essential construction work providing the operational framework of the industrial park will be complete by the end of 2022. SEZ status with zero-rated import of machinery, income tax holiday for ten years are additional attractions. However, with most industrial machinery now being imported from China (zero-rated or negligible duties under FTA), SEZ status is becoming less important.

This is also because Pakistan’s SEZ law is complex, slows down the business’s erection because of the cumbersome approval process and needs reform. (Please read our article later in this section: Why Pakistan’s SEZ law may need fixing?). QABP management is offering around 675 plots of varying sizes from 0.5 Acres (4 Kanals) to 4 Acres (32 Kanals) and bigger.

Read more: Why Pakistan’s SEZ law may need fixing?

 

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While more than 100 plots have already been sold, more than 150 applications are pending. These applications are being reviewed by the Allotment Committee of Punjab Industrial Estates Development & Management Company (PIEDMC) to see whether these qualify for setting up units in the Special Economic Zone (SEZ). As mentioned earlier, SEZ law is complex, and approvals lie with the Board of Investments (BOI) in Islamabad, which makes the process very cumbersome and needs reform.

QABP Responded to Pandemic with Online Marketing

While onsite sales offices, at the exact location of Quaid-e-Azam Business Park (QABP), have yet to start operations, delayed due to the Corona pandemic. PIEDMC teams managing sales have been very successful in providing information and attracting interest through their online web-based sales operations.

Read more: How Punjab is gearing up for CPEC Phase-II, Mian Aslam Iqbal explains

PIEDMC site has provided not only the application forms but, it has placed valuable information in the way of “Frequently Asked Questions” which have been found useful in addressing concerns of the potential investors from across Pakistan and abroad (Key points explained in our article: Why QABP: What Investors need to know about QABP?).

Expat Pakistani community is also taking an active interest in the possibility of setting up small industrial units in this SEZ.

QABP Multipurpose Complex Customer Facilitation Centre

PIEDMC management team, under the leadership of its chairman, Syed Nabeel Hashmi, and CEO PIEDMC Javed Illyas is working to inaugurate a state-of-the-art Customer Facilitation Centre at QABP site. This Multi-Purpose Complex will soon be established by either the Chief Minister of Punjab, Usman Buzdar or Minister of Industries, Mian Aslam Iqbal.

The Customer Facilitation Centre will be a multi-storey structure housing facilitation teams that will support the industrial clients, through a “One Window Operation” throughout the construction and development phase. PIEDMC still maintains a similar smaller facility at its Sunder Industrial Estate near Lahore.

The purpose of these “one window operations” is to facilitate the industrial clients with all their needs of documentation, financial and regulatory information under one roof. Later these Customer Facilitation Centres will also help the clients with expansion, gas and electricity billings, etc.

Read more: PIEDMC’S SEZs declared estates across Punjab

Bureaucratic ‘SOPs’ Need to be Reviewed? Sources familiar with the developments of the Quaid-e-Azam business park as well as affiliated with PIEDMC have expressed that there is astute keenness from both the Prime Minister as well as Chief Minister Buzdar regarding this project.

Despite this political will, the process is still being sluggish due to the pre-existence of bureaucratic hassles and ‘red-tapism’. Sources believe that PM and key ministers are all aware of how this “multi-layered system” creates endless inefficiencies, but clear management thinking is needed to improve regulatory legislation.

These bureaucratic ‘SOPs’ like the PPRA Rules framed by the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) are in place to mitigate frauds. Still, the rules framed with a mid-20th century economic development in mind need to be reviewed to hasten the development and completion of the SEZs in the 21stcentury digital era where the speed of decision-making matters.

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