SIALKOT - UK-based experts have stressed a need for early upgradation of Pakistan’s more than a century old surgical industry on modern lines.

They pledged efforts to flourish the surgical industry through meeting the global trade challenges. The UK based experts stated this while addressing an important meeting of the surgical instruments manufacturers and exporters held at Surgical Instruments Manufacturers Association of Pakistan (SIMAP).

The British experts from Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) namely Ms Cindy Berman, head of the Modern Slavery Strategy, and Mr Ben Rutledge, senior advisor human rights, discussed in details the matters of mutual interest like corporate social responsibility (CSR), child labour including the problems, goals and challenges of Sialkot’s surgical industry.

Addressing the meeting, Ms Cindy Berman said that a UK-based organisation  namely “Ethical Trading Initiative” (ETO) was i conducting a study for the commencement of “Programme to Tackle Child labour in Sialkot-Pakistan’s Surgical Industry” under the supervision of Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) in active collaboration with Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) and Surgical Instruments Manufacturers Association of Pakistan (SIMAP).

She added that the organization was also aiming to influence Sialkot-based surgical exporters to act responsibly, promote decent work and strive to tackle the complex challenges of today’s global supply chain to improve the lives of the workers worldwide.

The UK based experts also discussed the ongoing labour environment related practices being followed in Sialkot’s surgical industry with special refernce  to Child labour. They briefed about the ETI’s aim and objective which basically aimed towards ensuring upholding of ethical values in supply chain in Sialkot’s surgical industry.

They added that ETI has a strategic partnership with Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) to improve human rights due diligence in global supply chain.

Ms Cindy Berman revealed that ETI was a collaborative effort involving Swedish, Norwegian, German  and UK public bodies and European Buyers  to conduct a due diligence of Child Labour and value chain analysis of Sialkot’s surgical industry and surgical instruments supply chain in Sialkot Pakistan as well.

They opined that though the problem of child labour has to some extent addressed in Sialkot’s sports sector but there was still existence of the issue in surgical industry of Sialkot, especially in the smaller vendors from where the main exporters drive their immediate products.

They acknowledged that though improvement has been made in Pakistan, but still there was a concern that the surgical instruments which Pakistan was exporting to UK were being made by Child Labour. They said that now ETI was initiating a programme in Sialkot’s surgical industry  to tackle child labour in Sialkot-Pakistan’s surgical sector. The ETI has started a study in Sialkot for launching this project. The ETI exprts were holding  small roundtable talks of the key stakeholders. Leader of Sialkot’s surgical industry Muhammad Jehangir Bajwa briefed the UK experst about the different initiatives being implemented for elimination of the child labour.

On the other hand, Leader of Surgical Instruments Manufacturers Association of Pakistan (SIMAP) Jehangir Bajwa urged the government to announce advanced training programmes and workshops of the essential skills for preparing and providing the skilled labour to the surgical industry of Sialkot. Surgical industry has been suffering the shortage of skilled labour.

Addressing an important meeting of the Sialkot exporters, the SIMAP leader added that more than one century old surgical industry of Sialkot-Pakistan was in dire need of skilled labour.

He strressed need for modernising the surgical industry by ensuring the early transfer of advanced manufacturing technology to this industry.

He disclosed that the surgical industry of Sialkot-Pakistan has enough potential to double the surgical exports within the next couple of years with the proper patronage by the government.

He asked the surgical exporters to also focus on the diversification of traditional to non-traditional surgical instruments. He added that this direly needed early diversification could help to boost surgical instruments’ exports. He said that surgical Industry is producing over ten thousand different medical instruments.

Jehangir Bajwa said that more than one century old surgical industry of Sialkot was in dire need of modernisation and adopting the positive steps for advanced standers of international marketing and brand developing could help to save the surgical industry.

He said that the Sialkot based surgical manufacturers and exporters have enough potential to capture the international markets of hospitals related surgical items, having market of US $ 1 billion, if government properly patronizes Sialkot’s surgical industry, which has only 1 percent share in this world market consumption.

He urged the local manufacturers and exporters to focus on the diversification of traditional to non-traditional exports with a sole aim to meet the global trade challenges.

Jehangir Bajwa said that the surgical industry of Sialkot has sought the early proper governmental patronage for flourishing this promoting this industry and the easy access of Sialkot based surgical instruments manufacturers and exporters to the international markets, which have a great potential of consumption of Sialkot-made non-traditional surgical instruments, paving the way of increase in the surgical exports from Sialkot due to alleged negligence of concerned government functionaries and lacked continuity of the trade and export policies in the country.