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How Sri Lankan nationals help Pakistani exports to grow

There are thousands of Sri Lankan mangers in the country

SAMAA | - Posted: Dec 5, 2021 | Last Updated: 2 months ago
Posted: Dec 5, 2021 | Last Updated: 2 months ago

Artwork SAMAA Digital/Yawar Yasin

The Sri Lankan national who was beaten to death, dragged on the road, and then set on fire in Sialkot on Friday was working to push up Pakistan’s exports for over a decade. There are several others like him in this country.

Pakistani employers prefer them for a specific reason: They have proved a critical bridge between Pakistani manufactured goods and the international buyers.

Diyawadanage Don Nandasri Priyantha Kumara (Priyantha Kumara for short ) came to Pakistan over a decade ago. He worked for a Faisalabad textile factory before joining the Rajco Industries in 2013.

Rajco Industries manufacture training kits for leading sports teams including the Pakistan cricket team and have been generating revenue for the country.

Priyantha Kumara was manager of exports at Rajco Industries located at Wazirabad Road in Sialkot.

His responsibility, like many other of his countrymen working in Pakistan, was to produce goods to meet international standards so that they could be easily exported.

Bridge between manufacturers and buyers 

Many other Sri Lankans have been employed at similar positions at different manufacturing units in the country, particularly in Karachi — the country’s financial hub.

“There are many reasons for hiring Sri Lankan nationals on top position in the manufacturing sector. For instance, they are technically sound and enjoy good relations with international buyers,” an admin manager at a leading textile export company in Karachi told SAMAA Digital.

The admin manager, who wished not to be named because of security reasons, shared a story of Sri Lankan nationals, who are working at the manufacturing unit where he is employed too. “We have a Sri Lankan, who is an industrial engineer by profession, and he is tasked to manage all the machinery installed in the unit,” he said. 

“We have another Sri Lankan national who is heading our washing department because Sri Lankans know washing recipe well,” he said adding that at another unit of the company a third Sri Lankan national was overseeing the sampling department to make sure that the company’s products attract international buyers.

The admin manager, who also knows people employed by other factories in the SITE industrial area, says many other textile manufacturing units have hired Sri Lankan nationals on key positions.

At some factories, they have been heading the sewing departments as they know the required finishing quality to ensure that products pass quality tests overseas.

Outside the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce, people pay homage to Sri Lankan national Priyanatha Kumara who was lynched by a mob on Friday.
Outside the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce, people pay homage to Sri Lankan national Priyantha Kumara who was lynched by a mob on Friday.

Training for Pakistani workers

Several industrialists would testify to the professionalism of Sri Lankans working in Pakistan and their role in the country’s exports.

Karachi Business Guild President Faraz-ur Rehman says Sri Lankans would keep abreast of the technological advances in the world and hence they were a preferred choice for Pakistani employers.

“They are also less expensive to hire compared to managers from other countries,” he told SAMAA Digital.

“We experimented by sending some people to Sri Lanka for two or three month training, but we couldn’t get the desired results. Keeping in view this fact, many manufacturers have hired services of Sri Lankan industrial engineers to train emplyees and to head technical departments,” Rehman added.

Rehman, a former senior vice president of the Korangi Association of Trade and Industry (KATI), said that about 700 foreign nationals, most of them Sri Lankans, are working at various industrial units in Korangi industrial area alone.

After the Sialkot lynching incident, he fears for their security. He urged the federal and provincial governments to ensure protection for foreign workers.

This senior businessman says the presence of foreigners, especially that of Sri Lankans, has ensured greater job opportunities for Pakistanis as they have helped to grow the country’s exports and in turn economy.

The mob also damaged vehicles in the factory. PHOTO SAMAA TV
The mob also damaged a vehicle that belonged to Priyanatha Kumara. PHOTO SAMAA TV

Uneasy manager-employee relations

Latest reports from Sialkot suggest that a possible motive behind the lynching of Priyantha Kumara is his insistence on work quality. He pressed employees to work harder and this earned him animosity.

Several managers and owners at manufacturing units in Karachi have complained about uneasy relations with workers, according to senior police officials.

Senior Superintendent Police (SSP) Faisal Abdullah Chachar was once the police head in the Korangi district which houses a large number of industrial units.

He says factory owners used to tell him that they felt threatened by the employees.

“A number of factory owners used to come to me and complain that a certain group of labourers in their manufacturing units was blackmailing them,” Chachar told SAMAA Digital.

The employees would not finish the tasks assigned to them and when pressed they would threaten to go on strike.

Chachar first told the owners that they could fire the non-compliant workers. But the owners were horrified at the suggestion.

They said that expelling such workers would lead to a backlash, demonstrations and a complete strike.

Finally, the police began to help the factory owners, Chachar says.

Not every factor worker is derelict or heartless. There were a few at the Rajco Industries factories who tried to shield Priyantha Kumara from the mob, the latest videos have revealed.

Sri Lankan managers in Pakistan

The total number of Sri Lankan nationals working in Pakistan runs into thousands, according to officials.

In Karachi alone, there are 2,000 Sri Lankans, most of whom occupy key positions at industrial units.

In recent years, the number of industrial units has increased in Punjab especially in Gujranwala Division, which encompasses Gujranwala, Sialkot, Mandi Bahauddin, Gujrat, Narowal, and Hafizabad districts.

After the Sialkot incident, police in Gujranawal Division have been ordered to beef up security at churches and the residences of foreign nationals.

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