It is no surprise that the Pakistani leather footballs used in the FIFA world cups are
of the best quality and superior craftsmanship. Indeed, leather is one of Pakistan’s
strong suits. Sialkot is a burgeoning hub for the leather industry, but other areas
are well known for the production of leather products of top notch quality. Aside
from sporting goods, leather jackets, wallets, hand bags, luxury belts and other
items are extremely popular.
At the time of Independence, very few tanneries were producing leather in
Pakistan and that too at a very small scale. Soon after, tanneries were established
in Karachi. In the 1950’s, more were built in Lahore and the adjoining areas.
Multan, Sahiwal, Kasur, Gujranwala and Sialkot soon featured tanneries well
equipped with the latest facilities. By the 1970’s, advanced units had been
established in the country, producing high quality finished leather. At the present
time, Pakistan’s leather and leather merchandise are extremely significant and
the third most dynamic industrial sector in the country. Around eight hundred
industrial units and tanneries are now in operation, specializing in finished leather
using cow, sheep and goat skins and hides. Pakistan is rich in agricultural products
and boasts of a large livestock population. As a result, thirteen million hides and
forty seven million skins are obtained by the tanneries each year for processing.
The quality of these skins is of exceedingly high quality and the resulting leather
products are valued as exports. According to the Pakistan Tanner’s Association,
leather and leather products are 2.6 percent of the GDP and account towards 5
percent of total exports. This industry also provides jobs to around one million
skilled and semi skilled workers.
As Pakistan is an Islamic Republic, the Qurban Eid is celebrated once every year
and culminates in the sacrificial slaughter of animals. This provides enormous
incentive to the leather industry as the tanneries receive skins and hides which
are sufficient for around sixty to eighty percent of their total production per
annum. However, a large majority of this raw material is damaged by
unprofessional butchers. It is hard to handle the hides with care and they are lost
in unorganized warehouses. Livestock is also killed by seasonal diseases as well as
heavy rains, which often culminate in floods. Also, leather tanneries dispose of
their poisonous waste in an improper manner. The untreated affluent which is
used in the tanning process is released in water reservoirs and the sea. The
burning of residuals like hair also contributes to air pollution. Therefore, the
leather industry has been affecting health and the environment negatively.