ABC HISTORY / KEY HIGHLIGHTS
1. Incorporation and First Public Exposure of ABC – 1984
ABC was incorporated in February 1984. As first public exposure, the American Business Council of Pakistan participated in the Pakistan International Trade Fair held in September 1984, in Karachi. U.S. Pavilion Exhibitors’ Directory containing information about the ABC and its members was published on the occasion and presented to visitors who received it with interest.
2. Lobbying for Textile Industry – 1985
U.S. legislation was expected to reduce Textile exports from countries in the Asia Pacific area – particularly reduction of Pakistan’s exports by over one third of its 1984 levels.
ABC supported the move of its fellow Members of the Asia-Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce (APCAC) and sent out letters to 56 U.S. Congressmen in September 1985 strongly opposing the U.S. Textile and Apparel Enforcement Bill of 1985. ABC also sent a telex to President Ronald Reagan in December 1985, urging him to veto the legislation.
Being a staunch opponent of trade protectionism, President Reagan eventually vetoed the proposed Bill. He also said, “It is my firm conviction that the economic and human costs of such a bill run for too high.” (Dawn – Washington, Dec 18, 1985). Clipping
3. Professional Development of Chambers – 1985-88
In 1985, the ABC worked and coordinated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington, for training programs aimed at the professional development of Chamber Executives in Organization Management.
The Center for Leadership Development (CLD) and the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), an educational division and a non-profit affiliate respectively of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington, funded and operated the programs respectively.
ABC recommended three Executives from the Chambers of Pakistan who attended and successfully completed a course in USA in 1985.
In 1986, South Asian Institute for Organization Management (SAIOM) was formed for training in Organization Management in the Region. First program was organized at the IndianAdministrativeStaffCollege at Hyderabad in May 1986.
In 1987, the SAIOM was brought to Pakistan. A Board of Counselors of the SAIOM was constituted by CLD Washington to plan, promote, organize and manage SAIOM Programs. Secretary Mahratta Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Pune, India was nominated as Chairman while representatives of Chambers of Pakistan (including Secretary ABC), India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka were nominated as Counselors.
A plenary session of the Board was convened in Lahore in March 1987, and plans were finalized for organizing the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Year courses at the Lahore University of Management Sciences from November 28, to December 3, 1987. Country Representatives were also appointed including Secretary ABC for Pakistan.
Eleven Executives from various Chambers of Pakistan including ABC besides 26 Executives from the Chambers of India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka attended and successfully completed the courses at Hyderabad, India, in 1986 and at Lahore in 1987.
On conclusion of the Program in 1987, the Secretary ABC was elected Chairman of the Board for 1988 by the Counselors representing five countries elected earlier. It was also agreed to organize the next SAIOM program in Khatmandu, Nepal. Funding for the SAIOM was not continued in 1988 due to substantial cost in running such a regional program from abroad. Hence, the program was abandoned.
4. Promoting Pakistan in USA – 1986
The ABC sponsored publication of a Supplement on Pakistan entitled “Oasis of Opportunity” in July 1986 issue of the Nation’s Business – an official magazine of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. This project was managed by soliciting advertisements from American and Pakistani organizations with no burden on national exchequer.
Basic objectives: To project the progressive thrust of Pakistan’s economy, to inform American business Executives of the favorable business climate in Pakistan, to highlight major opportunities and to point out critical success factors for doing business in Pakistan.
ABC arranged copies of the Nation’s Business and Reprints of the Supplement and distributed to the relevant functionaries of the Government of Pakistan, Pakistan Embassies abroad, overseas branches of Pakistani Banks and selected institutions in Pakistan.
ABC’s initiative to promote Pakistan in U.S.A. was much appreciated by the Government. Suffice is to quote a sentence from a letter from Mr. Jamshed K.A. Marker, Ambassador for Pakistan in U.S.A., who said: “It is an excellent document which will be very valuable for distribution in this country.”
5. Visit by President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington – 1987
Dr. Richard L. Lesher, President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington, visited Pakistan as guest of the ABC in November 1987. ABC arranged useful meetings with General M. Ziaul Haq, President of Pakistan; Mr. Mohammad Khan Junejo, Prime Minister and other functionaries of the government.
Dr. Lesher informed that such investors who had foreign investment activities and experience were limited to about 200. Out of those, 52 were represented by the ABC, the most effective Chamber to assist the Government in attracting more U.S. investment. Dr. Lesher also addressed a seminar on “Business and Economic Reporting in Pakistan”.
6. Formation of Board of Investment and Investment Policy Liberalized – 1989
The Board of Investment (BOI) was constituted at the end of 1989 with Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, Prime Minister of Pakistan as Chairman.
Background: On ABC’s invitation, Mr. Thomas J. White, Chairman, Asia-Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce (APCAC), visited Pakistan in February 1989. Mr. White briefed the ABC on APCAC activities and the two measures which played key role in the rapid growth of economy in Thailand and other countries of the region i.e. (a) a high-powered and very effective Board of Investment which operated directly out of the Prime Minister’s Office under his own chairmanship and (b) a Joint Public-Private Sector Consultative Committee also chaired by the Prime Minister, addressed the issues primarily put forward by the private sector. ABC much appreciated it and wished if the two institutions could be replicated in Pakistan.
The President ABC soon broached the subject with Mr. Roshan Ali Bhimjee, Advisor to the Ministry of Finance, and suggested that similar institutions be established in Pakistan. The President also raised the matter with the Prime Minister at a Symposium on the “Promotion of Foreign Investment in Pakistan” held in May 1989 in Islamabad.
Ultimately, a Board of Investment was constituted at the end of 1989. It was renamed as Pakistan Investment Board in 1992 and again its name was changed to Board of Investment in April 1994. BOI liberalized the Investment Policy and allowed setting up of all projects (except those on restricted/specified list) costing up to Rupees One Billion irrespective of the share of foreign equity – earlier it was limited to 49%.
7. Policy Reforms – 1990
In November 1990, Mr. Nawaz Sharif, the new Prime Minister of Pakistan outlined priorities and policy directions of his Government with main thrust towards privatization, deregulation and faster and greater industrialization to improve economic conditions of the masses and to attain self-sustained economy.
The Prime Minister appointed six Committees to suggest measures for Self-Reliance; Deregulation and Dis-investment; Tax Reforms; Export Promotion; Exchange & Payment Reforms; Industrial Policy and Investment. Four ABC nominees were also appointed Members of the Committees for Tax Reforms, Deregulation & Dis-investment, Export Promotion and Exchange & Payment Reforms.
ABC provided key suggestions concerning deregulation in Industrial, Financial and Trade Sectors and Tax Reforms and its representatives actively participated in meetings and helped in formulating recommendations for policy reforms of critical importance to national economy.
Committees’ recommendations were promptly implemented such as complete liberalization* of the Government’s policy on foreign equity; deregulation of sanctioning procedure providing maximum free-hand to the entrepreneur in establishing new industries as well as expansion of existing plants; revolutionary changes in foreign exchange controls – a step short of free exchange market – greatly facilitating investment and foreign trade; privatization of Airlines and Banking; incentives for export promotion; package of incentives and concessions for industrial sector, etc.
*Although earlier liberalization suggested no limit on the percentage of foreign equity yet increase continued to meet obstacles and hence actual implementation of liberalization was welcome.
8. ABC-IBA PC Training Program – 1992
As part of social responsibility, the ABC established a PC Training Center in January 1992, in collaboration with the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) Karachi.
The Program was focused on needy and unemployed young graduates who were desirous of acquiring computer knowledge and skills to enhance their ability for jobs. It offered six 7-week courses at a highly subsidized fee.
Over 540 students including 51 girls successfully completed the courses of the ABC-IBA PC Training Program from January 1992 to May 2000. On cumulative basis, the ABC spent Rs. 3.5 million on the Program.
9. Enhancing Pakistan’s Image Abroad – 1992
ABC conducts an Informal Business Perception Survey periodically amongst its members only, to assess how they view the investment climate of Pakistan. The 1992 Survey showed highly increased optimism in investment climate and overall business prospects of Pakistan compared to the previous survey conducted in 1989.
Incidentally, Mr. Sartaj Aziz, Minister for Finance, was going to New York to inaugurate the Pakistan’s New Economic Environment Conference in September 1992. ABC provided him a copy of the Survey to carry the views of the existing American investors as to how positively they looked at the business environment of Pakistan.
The Survey was the main feature of a Supplement on Pakistan published in the Wall Street Journal on September 18, 1992, with positive editorial comments on the occasion of Investment Promotion Seminars held in U.S.A., and Canada.
10. Visit of the U.S. Senate Delegation – 1993
A U.S. Senate Delegation comprised of Senators Thad Cochran, Larry Pressler and Hank Brown visited Karachi in December 1993. ABC briefed the Senators inter alia on the issues relating to U.S. Legislation and economic ramifications on the U.S. businesses resulting from the Pressler Amendment particularly due to non-availability of OPIC insurance.
Ultimately, after removing flaws in U.S. laws on adoption of Harkin-Warner amendment in Senate reaffirming insurance cover to American investment, OPIC was excluded from the Pressler Amendment sanctions in July 1997.
11. Visit of the Asia Society’s Study Mission to Pakistan – 1994
A 13-Member high level Study Mission of the Asia Society on South Asia and the United States After Cold War visited Karachi in March 1994. The Mission consisted of think-tank experts, former policy-makers, businessmen, journalists and social workers.
Purpose: To focus attention on what it called the least known and most misunderstood region in the world. The study covered critical issues in U.S.-South Asian relations including the prospects for increased trade and investment inflows, challenges to regional security including the spread of nuclear and missile technology, and the possibility for conflict and co-operation in areas such as human rights, environmental protection, Intellectual property rights, science and technology.
ABC organized four mini-Seminars and the participants included sub-groups of the Study Mission and some eminent persons from Pakistan. Earlier, ABC was chosen as the principal co-operating institution to organize and co-ordinate the entire day-long schedule of the meetings/engagements, seminars and logistics in Karachi.
Mr. Marshal M. Bouton, Executive Vice President of the Asia Society, sent “Thank you” letters to the President and the Secretary ABC for arranging an excellent program of seminars and visits with dignitaries for the Mission. He added that the mission was impressed by the quality of the seminars and the associated free and frank discussion and that the Mission gained a perspective on Pakistan that would be most useful in preparing the Mission report.
12. Meeting with President of Pakistan – 1995
The ABC Executive Committee had a meeting with Sardar Farooq Ahmed Khan Leghari, President of Pakistan, in June 1995, at the Governor House, Karachi. The President discussed the law and order situation in the city and gave an overview of the infrastructure problems being faced by the people in Karachi and the proposed plans for improvement.
13. Meeting with Prime Minister of Pakistan – 1995
The ABC Executive Committee attended a meeting of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, Prime Minister of Pakistan, with the businessmen held in July 1995, at the State Guest House, Karachi. The Prime Minister discussed the law and order situation and informed that stringent measures were being taken by the Government and the situation would be under control in a few months time.
14. ABC Drug Awareness Program – 1996
The ABC produced a research-based documentary film “Bhataktey Saey” (Wandering Shadows), and launched a Drug Awareness Program in 1996 to create awareness of the hazards of drug intake among the students of 9th and 10th grades and dissuade them from experimenting with drugs. The film addressed directly to the school going children of 14-16 years appealing to their psyche and relating to the real life story of an individual whom they could identify with.
The film was shown to the students at selected schools in Karachi and the film shows were conducted by the Trainers who were hired and specially trained for the purpose. Slogan stickers and leaflets containing information on how to avoid drugs were also distributed to the students.
The Program was abandoned in November 2000. During the period of over 4 years, the Program was offered in around 400 schools and covered over 41,000 students at a total cost of Rs 1.75 million.
15. Golden Jubilee Celebrations of Pakistan – 1997
ABC co-sponsored with the USIS an Exhibit of 40 selected photographs of National Geographic Society on the occasion.
The photographs taken in Pakistan during 1947 and 1996 depicted various aspects of social, cultural and economic life of urban and rural Pakistan including the rugged Khyber Pass, the floating boat-road near Attock, the wooden houses half-hanging in the SwatRiver at Bahrain, etc.
An eye-catching photograph showed a Hunzai claiming to be 108 years old, Wazir Zadah Ali Murad, who remembered the British invasion in 1891. Contributions of U.S. investment to Pakistan’s economy were also displayed.
The Exhibition was inaugurated in Karachi in August 1997. It traveled and was on display in Islamabad in September, Lahore in October and Peshawar in November 1997.
ABC funded cost of the fee amounting to US$ 8,000 for rights to exhibit National Geographic Society photographs, which was contributed by the members.
16. Golden Jubilee Celebrations of Pakistan – 1998
The ABC co-sponsored another exhibition “Great Cities, Small Treasures: The Ancient World of the Indus Valley” which was set up and opened at the Asia Society, New York, in February 1998, and toured the United States of America till April 1999.
According to the Asia Society, “This special exhibition attracted a large audience to the Asia Society, and generated a great deal of interest in this exceptional civilization and in Pakistani culture. We are delighted that it has received such a strong positive response from art historians, archaeologists, anthropologists and a broad range of individuals.”
Prof. Jonathan Mark Kenoyer who had worked in Pakistan since 1975, doing archaeological research at various sites including Mohenjo-daro and Harappa, organized an International Conference on archaeology of the IndusValley during the exhibition. He also brought from Pakistan some craftsmen to demonstrate gold jewelry making, pottery manufacture, bread making and tile working.
The Exhibition exposed the American public to a part of Pakistan, overlooked by the news media, and the skills of Pakistani craftsmen, which were of much benefit to Pakistan from the perspective of business and tourism. ABC Members contributed a sum of US$ 35,000 to the Asia Society, New York, U.S.A., for organizing the exhibition.
Mr. Thomas W. Simons, Jr., U.S. Ambassador, wrote a letter to the President ABC, thanking the ABC Members for their contributions in support of the Indus Valley Exhibit in the United States. He also wrote, “The exhibit is already well on its way to being a landmark in Pakistan-U.S. cultural relations, and I know you share the pride of your contributing members in having helped make it such a handsome and important success”.
17. Prime Minister’s Meeting with Multinationals – 1998
The Board of Investment, Government of Pakistan, hosted a meeting of multinationals with Mian Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan, in March 1998.
President ABC highlighted the positive factors such as Government’s will to encourage and stimulate foreign investment; most open investment policies in Asia; commitment for consistent policies with legal protection; restructuring of banking sector and reduction in mark up rates; restructuring of Board of Investment as investor friendly body to facilitate foreign investment; positive tax reforms to broaden the tax base and shift revenue base from imports to consumption.
He also drew the Prime Minister’s attention to some major issues like Non-implementation of policies/agreements; simplification of tax collection system; effective protection of Intellectual Property Rights and Trade Marks; and Law and Order situation. Outcome of the meeting was generally appreciated.
18. Economic Revival Plan – 1999
In December 1999, General Pervez Musharraf, Chief Executive of Pakistan, announced the Economic Revival Plan.
The Executive Committee discussed and found the Reforms encouraging. It was noted that the Government wanted to take steps in the right direction, for example Broadening of Tax base by bringing agricultural income in the tax net; application of GST/VAT at all stages, resolution of IPP Issue; improvement of Laws relating to Trade Marks and IPR; minimizing number of taxes; measures for effective control of smuggling. However, it was generally desired for the Government to move to the implementation faster, taking advantage of the current window of opportunity for reforms.
Following Press Release was issued in December 1999:
“Karachi, December 22: The American Business Council of Pakistan (ABC) believes the Economic Revival Plan outlined on December 15 is positive in that the Government is moving in the right direction on many important issues. The ABC urges speed in actual implementation to take advantage of the unique window-of-opportunity for reform and to jump-start revival of the economy. Investor confidence will indeed be helped if the Government meets its stated intent to resolve the IPP issue in the short time frame indicated. The ABC urges the Government to give the same “fix in 30 days” priority to other critical issues such as strengthening laws regarding trademarks, copyrights and patents, and resolving the issue of pharmaceutical pricing.”
19. ABC President visits Washington – 2000
For the first time, an ABC President visited Washington in May 2000 and met with key people in the State Department, Commerce and Congress, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington.
The sole objective of the visit was to improve Pakistan’s image, which was not good and to present a more balanced view on the situation then obtaining in Pakistan vs. the harsh treatment Pakistan received in the media.
Key points of ABC message to Washington: the Government is supportive of the several actions taken to-date being steps in the right direction and going out of its way to dialogue and collect input from businessmen on what needs to be accomplished and how; crack down on smuggling; an increasing sense that corruption will not be tolerated; disagreement with IPPs resolved except one case; dividends and other outflows are now possible without restrictions; indications are for widening the tax net, to decrease personal income taxes which rose to 30-35% in July 1999, for taking steps on privatization, other tax reforms and tackling IPR issue, etc.
Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, the then Pakistan’s Ambassador in USA in a “thank you” letter to President ABC in June 2000, said “Your presentations to the U.S. Administration and Congress have indeed been helpful in providing a balanced perspective to the policy makers and their staff here in Washington.”
20. ABC Member’s Views on Pakistan – 2000
Mr. Dennis Bakke, CEO of AES Corporation, a global Power Company, called on General Pervez Musharraf, Chief Executive of Pakistan, in July 2000, and said, “We are in Pakistan since 1994 and are fully satisfied with our experience here”. Mr. Bakke also expressed willingness to expand the company’s investment in Pakistan.
General Pervez Musharraf appreciated the work being done by AES Corporation both in power generation and social sector. He lauded efficiency of the company and the state-of-the-art technology, which AES had brought to Pakistan.
Mr. Bakke again visited Pakistan in October 2000 and attended the quarterly Business meeting of the Corporation. Hundreds of senior officials and Directors also participated in the meeting. He described Pakistan as the most investment friendly place in the world. Mr. Bakke informed that AES was the single largest power producing company in the private sector in Pakistan, which had established two plants of the capacity of 727 megawatt in Muzaffargarh near Multan with an investment of over US$ 700 million that reflected their love for Pakistan.
Mr. Bakke added: “We have not only established power plants in Pakistan but also apprised the people how work is done. After imparting training to the Pakistani people, we are sending them abroad to serve in various organizations”. Mr. Bakke appreciated the Pakistani talent and said that 10% of the senior management of the company belonged to Pakistan and continued serving the world in line with AES’s values and principles.
21. Meeting with Governor Sindh – 2001
At a largely attended meeting of the heads of multinational and national companies (including ABC office bearers) at the Governor House in July 2001, Mr. Mohammedmian Soomro, Governor Sindh, observed that the recent acts of terrorism and more particularly the assassination of Mr. Shaukat Raza Mirza, Managing Director PSO, were aimed at creating destabilization and weakening the economy.
He agreed that the intelligence network ought to be beefed up and there was a need for tangible efforts to restore confidence. He pointed out that there were deep-rooted issues and any effective headway could be made only with the cooperation of the people belonging to various strata of society. He told the gathering that all possible steps were being taken to strengthen law enforcement and police reforms would be a major headway in this direction. He said that a huge amount was needed to implement the reforms. However, the first phase was being implemented at a cost of Rs. 15 million.
22. Lifting of Nuclear Sanctions – 2001
ABC sent a letter to the U.S. President in August 2001, urging him that all nuclear related sanctions against Pakistan under the Symington, Pressler and Glenn Amendments be lifted as early as possible. The sanctions were imposed immediately after India and Pakistan’s nuclear tests of May 1998.
ABC pointed out that lifting of the nuclear-related sanctions on Pakistan was crucial in order to support Pakistan in its domestic reform efforts as the Government had been working over the past 21 months to reverse the economic downslide, reduce corruption, provide better governance and bring democracy at the grass roots level through its development plan. Moreover, it was seeking to stem the rise of extremism in society.
At the same time, Pakistan was trying to reduce tensions with India. Removal of sanctions would encourage and strengthen the forces of reform and moderation in Pakistan and development of its 140 million people. Similar letter was also sent to the Secretary of State and Congressional Leaders.
Ultimately, the Bush Administration lifted all sanctions under the Glenn, Pressler and Symington amendments in September 2001.
23. U.S.-Pakistan Business Council Inaugurated in Washington – 2003
Mr. Shaukat Aziz, the then Minister for Finance, formally inaugurated the U.S.-Pakistan Business Council (U.S.-PBC) in September 2003, at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington. A congratulatory message of General Pervez Musharraf, President of Pakistan, was delivered via videotape. Mr. Nadeem Karamat, Member Executive Committee, represented ABC at the inauguration.
The Finance Minister gave an overview of the Pakistan’s economy and also invited the U.S. businessmen to come forward and invest in Pakistan. Mr. Edward Jackson, Chairman, Sweetwater Inc., narrated a successful story and informed that Pakistan was the best place for investment.
Earlier, during his visit to Karachi in August 2003, Dr. Davis informed that according to a study conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently, Pakistan was on top of the list as it offered best investment and business environment in the region. He also mentioned that on basis of the study, the U.S. Chamber was pursuing the U.S. business community to consider Pakistan as a positive place for investment and economic activities.
The U.S.-Pakistan Business Council (US-PBC) is an integral component of the South Asia Affairs Department in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington, which is the world’s leading business organization representing more than 3 million businesses and business federations of every size, sector and region. Primary role of the U.S.-PBC was to foster greater awareness of business opportunities in Pakistan and to further increase U.S. foreign direct investment.
24. U.S.-Pakistan Business Council Executive Delegation to Pakistan – 2004
An Executive Delegation of the U.S.-Pakistan Business Council, Washington, led by Dr Herbert Davis, Managing Director, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, visited Pakistan in March 2004.
The ABC office bearers and other members met the delegation and shared their perspective of the business environment in Pakistan. The delegation was inter alia informed about the steps being taken by the Government towards implementation of IPR laws. They also shared views on projecting a realistic image of Pakistan abroad, U.S. Travel Advisory and the U.S. Visa Policy.
Dr. Davis agreed that the U.S. Travel Advisory was affecting the business and said that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was trying to have the U.S. Travel Advisory softened by the U.S. State Department. Some of the delegation members also related their experience of doing business in Pakistan. They also shared thoughts about areas of possible collaboration between the U.S.-Pakistan Business Council Washington and the American Business Council of Pakistan.
Besides Dr. Davis, the delegation included Ms Esperenza Gomez, Executive Director, U.S. Pakistan Business Council; Mr. Najeeb Ghauri, Chairman, NetSol Technologies, Inc., Mr. Richard Brecher, Director Global Business Relations, Motorola, Inc., Mr. Pervaiz Lodhie, President & CEO, Ledtronics Inc., and Mr. Furqan H. Siddiqi, Vice President – Asia, Synergies Energy Development, Inc.
25. Meeting with Chairman Senate and Chief Minister Sindh – 2004
ABC Office Bearers met Dr. Arbab Ghulam Rahim, Chief Minister Sindh, in September 2004. It was very kind of Mr. Mohammedmian Soomro, Chairman Senate, who also joined us.
President ABC informed that while the business climate was good, the law and order situation was of much concern – it included street crimes like snatching of cars and mobiles at gunpoint, thefts and robberies which had created scare among the investors.
The Chief Minister informed that his Government had assigned priority to law and order and had recently taken some measures to control the crime such as using Police with community support, electronic equipment, installing of cameras, screening and training of police which had produced good results.
The ABC also raised the issue of traffic jams due to VVIP movements and barricades placed on certain roads blocking passage to offices and business houses/gasoline stations for hours causing huge loss of money and time. Mr. Mohammedmian Soomro said that the Government fully realized the problem and efforts were being made to minimize it.
A Coordination Committee of the Police officials and ABC representatives has been formed and meetings were held periodically. One ASP has also been designated to liaise between ABC and Police officials in case of any problem.