LAHORE: The collapse of the exclusively export-based hand knotted carpet industry in Pakistan is astounding. Its exports have declined from the peak of $350 million in late 90s to mere $50 million now.
The government cannot be held responsible for this decline. Carpet exporters minted money for almost two decades. Many of them became billionaires in the process, but they did not nurture the local artisan families who laboured day and night to weave the carpets for them.
Instead, they invested in real estate and other business ventures. The intrusion of Russians in Afghanistan brought another exclusive opportunity for them as the Afghan refugees who came to Pakistan knew the art of weaving carpets from vegetable dyes and attractive Kazak designs not yet introduced in the developed world.
The weaving cost was much cheaper and use of environment friendly vegetable dyes on exotic designs got them huge orders at very high price.
At about the same time, the sanctions on Iranians were lowered and Iranian carpets that were already famous started reclaiming the Iranian designs markets, while Pakistani exporters were busy exporting carpets woven by Afghan refugees.
Many Afghan refugees along with carpet weaving artisans went back after Russians left Afghanistan. The carpet exports from Pakistan suffered a setback as some Afghan entrepreneurs started direct exports of Afghan-Kazak designs.
Pakistani exporters however re-established liaisons with the Afghan-based weavers and started...
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