The 5th annual industrial exhibition organised by the Gujrat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GTCCI) kicked off on Thursday 8th May 215 at the Zahoor Elahi Cricket Stadium with around half of the stalls found empty.
Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) President Mian Idrees and Sudan Ambassador Abdul Rehman inaugurated the exhibition.
The Sudanese envoy in his address declared his country a gateway to African countries for Pakistani businessmen who should take full advantage of opportunities in his homeland as bilateral trade between Sudan and Pakistan did have a potential to grow.
He said that both countries had cordial relations which must be strengthened further by enhancing trade as Pakistanis could also set up their industrial units in Sudan.
The exhibition had been planned around a month ago, but differences among the ruling Shaheen group of the GTCCI a few days ahead of the exhibition forced the organizers to postpone the event.
Since the Shaheen group has split into two groups, the chamber officials faced problems in convincing the local business community to participate in the event.
The district government has been facilitating the GTCCI on the alleged pressure of the ruling PML-N whose city MPA Imran Zafar and disqualified MPA Nasir Mehmood, who also heads the Shaheen group, asked the DCO for the purpose as the chamber has not paid any government fee for the booking of the cricket stadium which will remain busy for the exhibition for a week. The stadium charges Rs25,000 per day fee.
An official said the electricity and other utility bills could reach up to Rs1 million only for a week which would reportedly be paid by the Gujrat district government while expenses on the rehabilitation of the expected damage to the specially-prepared cricket pitch and grassy ground would be the district government’s headache.
GTCCI officials said at least 150 stalls of different products and companies from across the country, including that of Gujrat and Mandi Bahauddin districts, were booked for Rs25,000 each.
The charges were received by organizers in addition to the already collected funds from local companies and executive members of the GTCCI in the name of publicity of the event in the city.
At least 150 local, national and multinational companies have booked their stalls for the exhibition which will go on for six days. The organisers expect a major increase in the visitors since all the previous three exhibitions had received a warm response.
The district government did not charge any official fee from the GTCCI this time and granted the permission to use the cricket stadium for the exhibition, however, last year, the government had charged Rs25,000 per day besides getting Rs200,000 as a security deposit for using the cricket ground.
GTCCI President Tariq Bilal Malik said besides diplomats and ministers, many foreign ambassadors were expected to attend the event.
A member of the exhibition’s organising committee said the trade exhibition of Gujrat had become a tradition and people of the region waited for it. Talking about the security situation, he said the situation in the country was bad since long but despite that the exhibition was being held successfully for the last three years.
Official sources told Dawn that under the current security situation, such a mega public event was not advisable under the current security situation as the exhibition had been a good attraction for the public as previously some 200,000 to 300,000 people visited it.
Gujrat District Police Officer Rai Ijaz Ahmed said there was no particular threat regarding the event of the trade exhibition, however, the police had taken strict security measures for the safety of the visitors.