Company registration surges in Pakistan as the jobless turn to self-employment amid coronavirus 

This photograph taken on November 19, 2015 shows Pakistani employees of online marketplace company Kaymu at work in Karachi. (AFP)
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Updated 03 November 2020

Company registration surges in Pakistan as the jobless turn to self-employment amid coronavirus 

  • Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan has registered 15,817 new companies since January this year
  • 2,365 new companies registered in September alone, 69 percent increase compared to same period last year

KARACHI: Pakistan’s securities watchdog, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), has registered 15,817 new companies since January this year, data shows, with 2,365 new firms registered in September 2020 alone, a 69 percent increase compared to the corresponding period last year. 
The impact of the coronavirus on workers and poor people in Pakistan is stark, with estimates that the poverty headcount could rise from 24.3 percent to a base case of 29 percent, and a worst-case scenario of 33.5 percent, the finance ministry predicted earlier this year. 

At least three million people will lose their jobs, the ministry had said, one million in the industrial sector and two million in services. 

The Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, an autonomous research organization set up by the government, has projected job losses could reach 18 million.

Owners of small and medium sized businesses say workers laid off due to the coronavirus outbreak and ensuing lockdowns have turned to self-employment as a viable option. 

“The SECP has allowed the registering of a limited company with sole proprietorship; that has encouraged many, mostly young and fresh graduates to seek the answer to the unemployment,” Zulfikar Thaver, President of Union of Small and Medium Enterprises (UNISAME), told Arab News. “Self-employment is the best answer ... The workers who lost jobs are coming to SME [small and medium enterprise] sector to start their own business, mainly focusing on the online trades.”

SECP officials say reform in the watchdog’s rules has made the registration process shorter and easier, which has led to an increase in activity.

“The increasing trend in registration of new companies is due to simplified and hassle-free procedures of company incorporation,” Sajid Gondal, Joint Director Corporate Communications Department, SECP told Arab News. “The SECP has recently undertaken a series of reforms for providing ease of business registration. Following reforms, a company can be registered in SECP within four hours through eService.”

SECP recently also combined the process for name reservation and incorporation to introduce a single application form for company incorporation. Incorporation and other regulatory fees have also been reduced significantly and facilities provided for payment of fees through mobile and Internet banking. 
“SECP has launched an exclusive startup portal to encourage technology innovation in Pakistan,” Gondal said. “The portal features a list of startups, simplified user experience for registration, access to mentors and incubation centers, online guides and video tutorials for Startup companies.”
Data shows that the trading sector took the lead in registration with the incorporation of 2,624 companies followed by 1,880 IT companies that were registered between January 2002 and September 2020.

1,721 construction companies, 1,609 companies in the services sector, 856 real estate development firms, 664 food and beverages companies and 551 tourist firms were also registered in this period. Foreign investment was reported in 388 new companies including from Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the UAE, the UK, the US and Yemen. 

Of 2,365 new companies registered in September 2020, 68 percent were registered as private limited companies, 29 percent as single member companies and three percent as public unlisted companies, not for profit associations, under section 43 and limited liability partnership (LLP). Ninety nine percent of the companies registered themselves online in September 2020.

Pakistani journalists blame 'nexus' between government, media owners for censorship, layoffs

Updated 2 min 17 sec ago

Pakistani journalists blame 'nexus' between government, media owners for censorship, layoffs

  • A leading association of journalists in the country claims media organizations have sacked over 8,000 workers in the last three years
  • Media owners say the layoffs are part of ‘cost cutting’ decisions in the face of dwindling advertisement revenues

ISLAMABAD: An association of Pakistani journalists has announced a protest march on Islamabad in the first week of April to “force the government and media owners” to protect the rights of media workers and respect their freedom of expression. 

Journalists and rights groups say the government’s relations with the press have become strained since Prime Minister Imran Khan took office in 2018. The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) administration denies that it censors the media. 

Journalists complain that editors and producers are not only forced to suppress opposition voices but also prevented from running critical content against the country's civil and military leadership. 

Many of them accuse the authorities of hindering the transmission and circulation of recalcitrant news channels and publications, saying the media outlets that refuse to play the official game begin to face problems with their advertisement revenues. 

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) said in a statement on Sunday that newspapers and channels across the country had sacked more than 8,000 media workers in the last three years. Media owners defend such measures as “cost cutting” measures in response to a reduction in their revenues. 

“The anti-worker alliance and nexus between the government and the media industry owners is causing censorship and mass layoffs,” Shahzada Zulfiqar, PFUJ president, told Arab News on Thursday. 

He said that journalists would press the government to ensure full implementation of the country’s labor laws to protect their rights by staging a sit-in in front of the Parliament House in April. 

“The media owners have surrendered their independence to the government as part of an unholy alliance to violate labor laws and sack journalists with impunity,” he added. 

However, media owners reject the allegations, saying that the news industry works independently and follow all relevant laws of the country. 

“No such nexus exists between the government and media owners,” Shakeel Masud Hussain, secretary-general of Pakistan Broadcasters Association, told Arab News. 

He continued that the revenue of media organizations had significantly declined due to the COVID-19 pandemic and about Rs3 billion of advertisement revenue was pending with the government. 

“Journalists aren’t laid off under any specific plan,” he said. “This is a cost cutting measure as our revenues have shrunk due to the pandemic." 

Pakistan ranked 145th out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) in April last year. 

Arif Nizami, president of the Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors, endorsed the PFUJ demand of timely disbursement of salaries to journalists and protection of their rights under the country’s labor laws. 

“The government has devised a centralized media policy which means that it gives ads to its favorite news organizations, and this often leads to undeclared censorship as well,” he told Arab News. 

However, he maintained that only those media organizations were complicit “who have other businesses to protect.” 

“We fully support the genuine demands of working journalists and are ready to sit with them to resolve their issues,” Nizami said. 

However, the government said it was already “cognizant of the problems of working journalists” and blamed them on “the coercive policies of some media houses.” 

“The PTI administration does not have an ‘unholy alliance’ with media owners,” Faisal Javed Khan, who heads Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting, told Arab News. “This can be judged by the fact that our government initiated the process of bringing much needed changes in the media policies after coming into power to ensure safety of journalists and their job protection.” 

He added that he had personally tabled a bill in the Senate to improve the working of the local media industry. 

Meanwhile, the PFUJ president said that journalists would present a charter of demand to the government to ensure press freedom and job security for workers. 

“We are responsible and accountable [for our work], but we aren’t ready to compromise on freedom of press and freedom of expression,” Zulfiqar said.