Relative to other state run departments, the Pakistani military is an anomaly; it is comparable and competitive to other militaries around the world, perhaps making it the only field where a government department fulfils international standards. Cognizant of this the export of our military capabilities is a long-standing practice. It is one of the largest contributors to the UN peacekeeping force, regularly sends deputations to friendly Middle Eastern countries, especially Saudi Arabia, and trains officers and soldiers from many more. It was a matter of time the focus shifted from exporting expertise in return of friendly relations to exporting military merchandise to make profits.

There has been a recent push by the government to boost defence exports, the recently concluded International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS) held in Karachi was heavily advertised, drawing an overwhelming response. he numbers suggest a sustained interest in Pakistani wares as well as a robust presence of Pakistani companies in the defence market. While it is difficult to ascertain the exact volume or content of defence exports, statements from various officials involved hint at an exponentially increasing amount. The centrepiece of IDEAS was the Block-II JF-17 Thunder, a multi-purpose fighter jointly developed by China and Pakistan. Along with Al-Khalid tank, another locally manufactured product, these two represent the focal point of the export ambitions. The potential is apparent, with both product already in circulation and more deals on the table; the exports could serve as a valuable prop for flagging economy. With the US, France, UK, Russia and China occupying major shares in the high-end defence export market, Pakistan could feasibly market to Middle Eastern, Latin American and African countries, who are seeking to replace ageing machinery but cannot afford expensive western merchandise. The initiative is a welcome one, one that recognizes that a history full of instability and warfare has given us certain expertise, and is willing to utilise it.

Despite success in the defence department, this manufacturing acumen is not present in any other department. Historically most defence manufacturers also held commercial portfolios, especially in the automobile industry, and vice versa. Fiat, Boeing, Ford, Rolls-Royce and other such companies were heavily involved in defence manufacturing, and some still are. It is important that the state defence companies diversify, utilise the skill and potential profits to develop the still nascent manufacturing sector of Pakistan.