Pakistan: Doing business & staying in touch

Doing business in Pakistan

Ties should be worn for important business appointments. English is commonly used. Appointments should be made, remembering that businesses are usually closed on Muslim holidays. Third-party introductions can be a big help in this relationship-driven culture. Always demonstrate respect to the most senior person in the group. Pakistanis have an ‘open-door policy’, even when they are in a meeting. This means there may be frequent interruptions. Business cards should be used.

Office hours

Mon-Thurs and Sat 0900-1700; Fri 0900-1230.

Economy

About 28% of Pakistan's land is under cultivation and watered by one of the largest irrigation systems in the world. Wheat, rice, sugar cane and cotton are the main products. Cotton accounts for almost 60% of revenues. Pakistan has some reserves of graphite and limestone, as well as a small oil industry.

The overriding economic problem for the Pakistani economy is inflation which was at 10% in 2011, and its huge foreign debt burden, which is over 90% of GDP and consumes over half of government revenue to meet interest payments. The situation has been made more difficult by the history of poor relations between Pakistan and the international financial community generally. Sanctions were imposed following Pakistani nuclear tests in 1998, coinciding with the fall out from the 1997 financial crisis that engulfed the major economies of Asia.

Yet despite these factors, the regional crisis centred on Afghanistan and Iraq, and domestic political instability, the Pakistani economy has performed steadily in the last few years. GDP per capita is $2400. Growth in 2011 was 2.2%, with unemployment at 15.2%.
 

GDP

$174.8 billion (2010).

Main exports

Textiles, rice, leather goods, sports goods and chemicals.

Main imports

Petroleum and petroleum products, machinery, plastics, transport equipment and edible oils.

Main trading partners

USA, China, Afghanistan, United Arab Emirates and UK.

Keeping in Touch in Pakistan

Telephone

Interstate calls are half price after 1800, but there are no cheap times for international calls. Whilst phone cards are available, not all PCO (public call offices) booths will accept them, nor will all top-end hotels.

Mobile phone

Roaming agreements exist with some international mobile phone companies. Coverage is largely limited to main cities. Prepaid SIM cards are available, often with good value starter pack offers.

Internet

Internet is available in urban areas where internet cafes can be found, but the service may be erratic. Hotels often charge far higher rates than internet cafes.

Post

Airmail takes four to five days to reach Western Europe. It is reliable but slow. Note - you are not allowed to send any CDs or DVDs out of the country. This is due to the high volume of software and media trafficking in Pakistan.

Post office hours

General post offices in major cities offer 24-hour services (www.pakpost.gov.pk).

Media

Former President Pervez Musharraf's rule was marked by increased freedom for the print media and liberalisation of broadcasting policies; the state's monopoly has been diminished by the expansion of private radio and TV stations. In 2005, issued licences for private FM radio stations totalled around 100, but private stations are not allowed to broadcast news. Pakistani censorship, however, remains far more rigorous than in India. The Pakistani Government uses a range of legal and constitutional powers to curb press freedom. The country's law on blasphemy has been used against journalists. Nevertheless, Pakistan's print media are among the most outspoken in South Asia. Media rules were tightened in 2007 after an opposition campaign against President Musharraf.

Press

The English-language press enjoys a great deal of influence in business circles.  Dailies include Business Recorder, The Dawn, Financial Post, The Nation and The News (an English-language daily). Daily Jang and Daily Ausuf are Urdu-language.

Television

Pakistan Television Corporation Ltd is a state TV broadcaster that operates PTV 1, PTV National, PTV Bolan and PTV World. Geo TV and Indus TV are popular satellite channels. Shalimar Television Network (STN) has both state-run and privately owned networks. ATV is a semi-private, terrestrial channel.

Radio

Radio Pakistan is state-run and operates more than 20 stations nationwide, an external service and the FM 101 network, aimed at younger listeners. Azad Kashmir Radio is also state-run. FM 100 is a commercial, music-based FM network.

Edited by Jane Duru
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