Skip to content
Subscriber Only

Pakistan's Textile Industry Is Dangerously Fragile

Textile mills in Faisalabad are closing while workers riot
Fabric drying in Faisalabad: Not enough power to go around
Fabric drying in Faisalabad: Not enough power to go aroundPhotograph by Fayyaz Hussain/Reuters

Chaudhary Maqsood Elahi, a Pakistani exporter of knitted garments, spent two years trying to save his factory in the textile hub of Faisalabad. He sold his house, cut down on staff, and switched to air shipments to meet orders on time. It didn’t work. About six months ago, Elahi, whose Dilkhush Hosiery Mills produced T-shirts for European mega-retailers Carrefour and Metro, shut down his 15-year-old factory after booking losses for two straight years. He fired 550 workers, tore down his plant, and divided the land into plots that he put up for sale to help repay loans. “I kept running the factory despite losses in the hope of finding a way out, but the financial burden kept growing,” says Elahi.

Pakistan has one of the largest textile industries in the world, shipping 1.3 trillion rupees ($13.8 billion) worth of textiles in the year ended June 30, mostly to the U.S. and Europe. Textiles account for 63 percent of Pakistan’s exports, and mills employ 20 percent of the nation’s workforce. Faisalabad, which generates the most tax revenue after Karachi, accounts for half of all textiles shipped from Pakistan.