Gemstones: a valuable asset for revenue generation

PESHAWAR, Oct 1 (APP): Busy like a honeybee in cutting and polishing of raw gemstones in his shop at Namak Mandi, Zahid Ahmad (38), a progressive gemstone exporter of Peshawar is often seen asking his brother Ali Akbar and fellow laborers’ to  hurry up to meet the placed orders of domestic jewelers and foreign investors.
Enjoying the famous Pashto song ‘larsha Pekhawar tha qamees tor mala rawora,” (go to Peshawar and bring black shirt for me) playing on his cell phone while cutting and polishing precious gemstones with archaic machines at Namak Mandi, a hub of gemstones trade in Peshawar City, the motivated exporter Zahid Ahmad said the demands of KP’s gemstones have been increased in domestic and international market due to its brilliance clarity and glittering designs.
Inherited the painstaking business from his father 15 years ago, the Peshawar’s born gemstone trader said “Pakistan’s rare-earth mineral such as Ruby, Emerald, Sapphire, Topaz, Aquamarine, Quartz, Garnet, Lapis Lazuli, Opal, Agate, Moonstone, Feldspar, Kunzite and Zircon mostly found in abundance in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit Baltistan, Azad Kashmir and southeast of Balochistan attract domestic and foreign investors.
Zahid said the demands of Swat’s emerald, Mardan’s topaz, Kohistan’s peridot, tourmaline of Chitral  and Azad Kashmir’s ruby were increased in UAE, Gulf, SAARC, CARs, Europe and US. A visitor would be astonished to see plenty of shops of gemstones while passing through Namak Mandi bazaar where a gemstones market was set up in 1970, providing direct and indirect jobs to around three lakh people.
 Ali Akbar, who was assisting his elder brother in gemstones business, told APP that precious gemstones were being wasted due to un-mechanized mining, lack of technology and laboratories in the province, resulting in huge economic and financial losses to the government kitty.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he said most of the stone cutters and polishers do stone faceting on conventional archaic machines and their precious time was wasted to bring inherent luster besides desired symmetry to gemstones. 
The local residents and unprofessional hands mostly mine these jewels in a hazardous traditional way in the mountainous regions mostly bordering with Afghanistan that caused irreparable damage to hidden treasure. 
 He said that a person with technical know-how can easily earn Rs15,000 per carat from Emerald and Sapphire and upto Rs 100,000/- profit from Rubby after making about Rs 0.6 million investment.
Mamoor Khan, pattern-in-chief, All Pakistan Commercial Exporters Association (APCEA) told the news agency that Pakistan’s economy could be improved by giving status of industry to the gemstones sector. 
“Pakistan is a home to diverse and rare varieties of gemstones deposits with a potential to export 800,000 carats of Rubby, 87,000 carats of Emerald and 5 million carats peridot per year. During July 2021 to June 30, 2022, he said that 6.77 million experts had been made from gemstones while 193,132.85 USD exports were made in August and 422,004.6 USD in July last year by APECA.
Gemstones could become a key mineral sector if it developed on modern line. Thus it can significantly help improve Pakistan’s shabby economic situation, Mamoor said that USD 4 million gemstones exports were achieved by APECA in 2021-22.
Mamoor while citing a report of Trade Development Authority of Pakistan said that in 2018 gemstones and jewelry exports were USD 14.1 million that increased to USD 14.6 million in 2019, adding over 80pc revenue was collected from unprocessed gemstones of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He said the lack of technology and professional training besides heavy taxes were making negative effects on gems mining in KP.
Dr Zilakat Malik, former Chairman Economics Department, University of Peshawar said that despite huge economic potential, gemstones sector were completely overlooked by the past governments that resulted increase in inflation and unemployment. 
“Unfortunately, the past government have diverted most of the financial resources to textile and agriculture sectors and ignored the gemstones sector with very limited allocations in budgets for its growth,” he said.
He said Pakistan has the potential to increase its gemstones exports to USD 32 billion if government provides proper patronage on the pattern of textile and agriculture sector to it. 
He said establishment of modern gems labs were imperative in all major cities especially in Peshawar, Mansehra, Swat, Muzaffarabad and Gilgit to avoid waste of the precious resource and provide necessary quality to compete internationally.  
Besides formulation of an inclusive policy for provision of safe extraction techniques for betterment of the gemstones industry, Dr Malik also suggested provision of modern technical hardware to gems miners at subsidised rates.
 The Gems and Gemological Institute Peshawar (GGIP) spokesman told APP that since March this year, over 4500 students of KP and erstwhile Fata were trained by the master trainers in gemstones mining, cutting and polishing.
“A draft act for setting up of Gems and Jewelry Authority has been approved while gemstones were included in the list of priority sectors in the strategic trade policy framework (2020-25),” said Director, Trade Development Authority of Pakistan, Sabaz Ali while talking to APP.
He said that gemstones and jewelry besides mines and mineral sectors would achieve more opportunities in terms of technology transfers with positive impact on the country’s exports in the second phase of CPEC.
In Peshawar, a Gemstones City would be set up where all modern facilities including training to gemstones miners, certification, polishing and cutting would be provided. 
Likewise, gemstones entrepreneurs would be provided marketing and packing training as per international standards while linkages between local and international gems companies would be strengthened to bolster gemstones exports.

APP/fam/taj (APP Feature Service)

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