Unrest in Pakistan Disrupts Industry Exports

The next few weeks are an uncertain time for Pakistan mills after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto on Dec. 27 and the violent unrest that followed.

Fuad Mirza, chief executive of Leisure Apparels in Karachi, said security issues present more of a challenge in that multiethnic city of 15 million. Leisure Apparels mostly produces men's knit tops for U.S. importers like Oved Apparel in New York.

"After the three to four days in the last week of December, the factories in Karachi had been shut down, at 2 p.m. on Monday, the 31st, the first working day, when there was a very serious rumor that spread like wild fire that there had been another assassination and violence would ensue on the streets again. All the factories were again hastily shut down and their premises evacuated," Mirza said, adding that the company had a shipment leaving on Thursday, Dec. 27th, the day of Benazir Bhutto's assassination, "which we finally managed to quickly send on Monday morning before the factory got shut again in the afternoon. We're hoping our buyers will be sympathetic with us and not exercise a penalty due to the unavoidable delay."

Mirza described the situation in the country as tense. "There is definitely panic being created with rumors and random firing on Karachi's streets by unknown assailants. More than 600 cars were burnt on the roads of this city in the last few days and though we're hoping the situation will normalize, workers are right now averse to leaving their homes."

But Mirza said the knitwear industry in Pakistan is, in his opinion, "on its way out as it is. I am afraid that now that there is no U.S. quota, clients will have an added reason to stay away and prefer to go to mills in China, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh."
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