By Fakhar Alam
PESHAWAR, Aug 15 (APP): Sustaining the 17-month long jolts of COVID-19 with courage and steadfastness, people associated with printing industry have witnessed an economic turnaround after Peshawar was made green and white on 74th Independence Day of Pakistan celebrated with national enthusiasm on Saturday.
Attracting substantial orders of printing national flags, posters, advertisements, graphics designing, promotional cards, stickers, badges, billboards, panaflex and souvenirs from Government departments, private organizations, educational institutions and civil society, the printers, publishers and graphic designers made roaring business during last one week in Peshawar where Jashn-e-Azadi materials were sold like a hot cake.
The printers of Mohalla Jahangi, a hub of printing, papers and graphic industries near historic Qissa Khawani bazar received heavy printing orders from all 35 districts including seven merged tribal districts in KP.
To meet the pressing demands of thousands of customers, most of the printers engaged extra labourers that worked till late night. They have rolled out hundreds of thousands of national flags, posters, banners and decorative accessories since the start of this month while vendors made quick profits on the streets.
Sitting on a revolving chair with focused eyes on a computer giving final touches to posters and pamphlets’ designs ordered by different schools and colleges in connection with Jashin-e-Azadi, the 22-years-old printer, Anees Khattak has worked against the time to meet the set targets.
Unaware of the Peshawari Kahwa placed on right side of his computer table in one room office at City Tower in Mohallah Jhangi became cold, the motivated Karak born Khattak, who was busy like a honey bee told APP that Jashin-e-Azadi celebrations brought smile on cheeks of thousands of printers, publishers, advertisers and graphic designers after witnessing great boom in printing orders.
” Printing is a hard hitting business. Sometimes you are overworked and often short of orders.
Approximately 30,000 people including 3,000 printers, publishers and graphic designers are directly or indirectly associated with this business in Peshawar,” he said.
Graduated in BS Computer Science from University of Peshawar, he said, “the response of the general public especially youth and children on this Jashin Azadi was unprecedented.
We have engaged extra labourers, who worked till late night under SOPs to meet demands of printing orders.” Many printers and publishers having a quality printing machines’ setup and skilled labourers received heavy orders to the tune of Rs 5 lac to Rs2 million during the week long celebrations that sparked patriotism.
He said extra printing materials were imported from China and Indonesia besides Lahore and Faisalabad to fulfill the customers pressing demands.
“I was initially thinking of visiting abroad for a job but later decided to carry forward the legacy of my forefathers associated with this business before the partition of the subcontinent.” he added
Anees Khattak, who is running a printing unit at Jahangi mohallah was feeling proud to employ 14 labourers and said that the printing industry carried great scope and would definitely encourage new talents if they wish to join the printing industry as a profession.
“I am ready to provide an internship to students who want to adopt printing, designing and advertising as a career in my printing unit,” said Anees.
“KP printers and publishers mostly rely on Punjab for printing materials after closure of Charsadda and Mardan paper mills. The transportation and electricity cost has increased prices of finished goods,” he admitted.
“Our main customers are educational institutions, closure of schools, colleges and universities examinations due to COVID-19 has adversely affected our business during the last one and half years,” he said.
“Prior to COVID-19, we had achieved 70pc profits only from answers sheets, booklets, notebooks and textbooks ordered by schools and colleges’ for examinations and curriculum in 2019. The profit has been slashed to 40pc due to postponement of examinations and online teaching after the pandemic struck KP last year,” he said.
Zafar Khan Khattak,President All Printers and Publishers Association KP told APP that Peshawar based printers and publishers have earned profits in posters and flags after a boom was witnessed during Independence Day celebrations.
Substantial printing orders of national flags and green stickers/badges have been received from merged tribal districts including South Waziristan, North Waziristan, Orakzai, Kurrum, Khyber, Mohmand and Bajaur for occasion ofJashin-e-Azadi, he added.
Zafar Khattak said printers of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had pinned high hopes on Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Rashakai being built under China Pakistan Economic Corridors (CPEC) and Economic Zones where establishment of printers and papers units would not only open up new vistas of investment and employment opportunities but would help bolster trade volume among Pakistan, Central Asian States (CARs) and Afghanistan.
Electronic E Cards and its exchange through social media have also adversely affected printing and paper industries in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he said.
Anees Khattak said, “the printing industry could flourish in Peshawar only, if we have the required expertise, quality manpower and a mechanism to control prices of papers and inflation as for printing materials besides Government patronage was required like the billion trees project.
Ajmal Bajauri, a vendor shopkeeper selling decorative items for children including green toys , pressures horns, hats, masks, spectacles, bangles, flags, badges and models of historical buildings of Pakistan Movement besides artificial jewelry at Qisakhwani told APP that he rushed to Peshawar after seeing overwhelming response of youth and children in toys and decorative stuff on TV.
“I disposed of all stock and would go to Lahore to bring more goods as Independence day fever continues gripping Peshawar,” he said, adding last year I had earned Rs65,000 against Rs125,000 this year during Jashn-e-Azadi.
Haleem Shah, a graphic designer and publisher at Fawara Chowk, Peshawar Cantt said after the 2018 elections, printers and publishers made substantial business during Independence day celebrations this year.
He said the 3D printing and papers business would further shine after the announcement of LG elections schedule in KP.
Fuad Ishaq, former President Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry demanded a special relief package for COVID-19 hit printers, advertisers, graphic designers and publishers.
He said priorities in the Kamyab Jawan Program might be given to young entrepreneurs to promote printing and paper industries.
Javed Khattak, Chief Executive Officer, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Economic Zones Development and Management Company (KPEZDMC), Govt of KP said four new economic zones one each in Chitral, Ghazi Haripure, Jalozai and extension in Nowshera has been approved where printers investors would be encouraged to setup units.
Khattak said Rashakai SEZ was being developed on 1,000 acres in three different phases under CPEC that would create over 200,000 jobs.
He said more industries that could do import substitution and bring new technologies would be encouraged in later stages at RSEZ.