The Expo Centre in Karachi welcomed a multitude of visitors as the Pakistan Auto Show 2023 commenced, with a surprising twist that saw locally-manufactured high-tech defence items and health tech products dominating the spotlight.

Abdul Jabbar Khan, an enthusiastic visitor with a keen interest in arms and defence technology, expressed his amazement at the display. He commented, “I nipped down to this auto fair here to look at auto parts and vehicles, but that said, I am taken aback to gaze at the defence products and sophisticated components of missiles, armaments, and weapons. I am over the moon that our local industry can produce such modern parts of weapons. I am more eager to glare at these items that appeal to me a lot.”

The event also saw the presence of numerous youngsters and children, who were captivated by the defence-related exhibits and eagerly collected brochures and pamphlets.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, local manufacturers highlighted their substantial contributions to Pakistan’s defence industry. A local manufacturer and group Director Akbar Allana emphasised their role in providing defence items to Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) and exporting them to various countries, including France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, and Spain. These defence items constitute a significant portion of Pakistan’s annual exports, valued at $6 to $7 million.

“On top of that, we have around 70 years of precision engineering and manufacturing experience in the automotive, aerospace, energy, oil and gas, lighting, health tech and agri-tech space,” he added.

Iranian companies participated in the event, showcasing their contributions to the automotive, oil and gas, and petrochemical industries. They underlined their commitment to expanding their business in Pakistan, highlighting their impressive exports to countries like Germany, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Chinese firms were not to be left behind, with one CEO, Wang, presenting high-quality shock absorber forked tubes and precision welded tubes. These components are known for their superior quality and affordability. Wang expressed his expectations of receiving more orders from Pakistan, in addition to the existing exports.

Another significant aspect of the show was the local assembly of motorbikes, including brands like United, Road Prince, Hi-Speed, Unique, and Superstar. Despite the challenges posed by high inflation, Chinese motorbikes remain accessible to the middle-class and lower-middle-class population, offering an economical transportation option during tough economic times.

However, industry representatives voiced their concerns over the heavy taxation imposed on locally produced cars, ranging between 37% and 43%. They stressed that this treatment hampers the growth of the auto industry. Abdul Rehman Aizaz, Chairman of the Pakistan Association of Automotive Parts & Accessories Manufacturers (PAAPAM), raised this issue during the inauguration of the Pakistan Auto Show 2023.

He pointed out that around 300 companies in Pakistan are manufacturing thousands of components for the country’s car manufacturers, contributing significantly to employment and industrial output. While the localisation of low-tech and some hi-tech components has been successful, there are challenges to overcome, including low volumes, non-tariff barriers, and reluctance in technology transfer by international companies.

Aizaz emphasised the need for car consumption per capita to increase in Pakistan, advocating for tripartite joint ventures between international part manufacturers, local OEMs, and Pakistani auto part manufacturers to enhance the industry’s competitiveness.

He also highlighted the significant localisation efforts in the motorcycle and tractor segments, contributing to the country’s GDP and making Pakistan a producer of some of the world’s most affordable tractors.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 28th, 2023.

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