MoIP, MoST in tug of war over control of local auto industry standards

MoIP gets Cabinet to 'secretly' approve EDB's authority, secretary MoST unaware of development

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Industries and Production (MoIP) has sidelined the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) by tasking the Engineering Development Board (EDB) with developing standards for locally manufactured vehicles which has already been done by the Pakistan Standard and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) under MoST.

According to details, this was done through the new auto policy (2021-26) recently approved by federal cabinet although the PSQCA, an arm of MoST, had developed the same last year.

Sources said that the MoIP, ‘secretly’ got the Cabinet to approve the statement: The importer-cum-assembler or OEM shall comply with short listed WP-29 regulations as determined by EDB, whereas the Board shall also ensure compliance in this regard by sliding the clause into the Auto Industry Development and Export Policy (AIDEP 2021-26) without anyone’s knowledge.

When contacted, Secretary MoST Dr Akhtar Nazir was found unaware of the development. He said since the ministry has already objected on giving the mandate of quality check to EDB, the MoIP should not have included the same in the auto policy.

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“We would take up the issue at relevant forum,” he said, adding that maintaining quality standards is the mandate of PSQCA according to the law.

It seems that the Minister of MoST Senator Shibli Faraz overlooked the document or did not notice the matter when the auto policy was discussed in the Cabinet.

Reportedly, the two ministries were bickering over the issue as both EDB and local auto companies were reluctant to accept the PSQCA’s role in maintaining quality standards.

The Ministry of Science and Technology is of the opinion that PSQCA, being the country’s only regulatory body of maintaining standards of locally manufactured goods, should look into the quality issues of the auto industry which continues to operate without regulatory supervision despite criticism by customers about low quality vehicles.

The ministry looks to ensure that the vehicles being manufactured in the country meet global standards as Pakistan has adopted the international safety standard regulations.

Pakistan has ratified the United Nations treaty on “Adoption of harmonised technical nations regulations for wheeled vehicles, equipment and parts which can be fitted and/or used on wheeled vehicles and the conditions for reciprocal recognition of approvals granted on the basis of these un regulations, adopted at Geneva on 20 March 1958”. The agreement was entered into force for Pakistan on April 24, 2020.

The new auto policy states that vehicles that are not compliant with shortlisted WP-29 regulations will not be locally manufactured or imported after June 30, 2022. However, manufacturers may get total waiver of up to a total of 24 months ending on June 30, 2024, from the EDB, if they show reasonable progress in compliance with UNECE regulations or face any practical difficulty. “The MoIP, on EDB’s recommendation, shall grant a one year relaxation in case of difficulty in compliance,” they said.

According to documents available with this scribe, MoSt, through its objection to EDB’s role as a standard body, has made it clear that the policy is in conflict with the functions of PSQCA. It said that EDB is not a regulatory authority and PSQCA is already notified as an authority for the implementation of regulations under PSQCA Act-VI of 1996.

MoST, while referring to some sections of the auto policy, has requested the authorities to delete sections related to the contradictory role of EDB from the policy as the PSQCA is already an established regulatory body in the country.

Interestingly, both PSQCA and EDB lack laboratories and other facilities required to check and approve standards of locally produced vehicles while both organisations have also been under fire for corruption and irregularities.

 

 

 

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Ghulam Abbas
The writer is a member of the staff at the Islamabad Bureau. He can be reached at [email protected]

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