By By Azeem Samar
8/20/2008
Karachi

More than 200 national and international organisations dealing in defence related products and services will be participating in the fifth International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS) 2008, to be held in November. However, the organisers are claiming that they are focusing on a host of measures in order to lessen the inconvenience that may arise for the general public in the five-day duration of the seminar.

Due to the extraordinarily heightened security during previous IDEAS events, especially the last one held from November 21, 2006 to November 24, 2006, the inhabitants of the areas in the vicinity of Karachi Expo Centre and commuters of the arteries around the exhibition venue had to face serious hardships. Reaching two important healthcare institutions of the city i.e. Liaquat National Hospital and Aga Khan Hospital virtually became a mission impossible due to the extensive closure of roads around the exhibition venue.

Citizens have serious reservations as why a venue in the virtual centre of Karachi, with a consistent track record of sabotage activities, was chosen for such a massive assembly of sensitive defence equipment, military hardware, mechanised weapons, and armed forces personnel from the country and abroad. “The IDEAS organisers have no right to virtually put on hold the life and business of the people inhabiting or owning shops near the Expo Centre,” said Naeem Qureshi who lives near Hassan Square on University Road just across the centre.

“It is a much advisable option that the event be relocated to a properly allocated space or exhibition area near Super Highway, Malir Cantonment, or even in the vicinity of Islamabad where the movement of VIPs and military hardware will not cause such unbearable and colossal discomfort to the masses for several days,” said Qureshi who also runs an event management firm.

The fifth IDEAS will be held from November 24 to November 28 this year including the day of the inauguration ceremony. The event organisers, however, will have a tough job selecting the chief guest for the ceremony as Pervez Musharraf will not be around to grace the occasion. He was the principal protagonist and patron of the arms and had attended every IDEAS exhibition since 2000. “It has been the affairs of only presidents and prime ministers to grace as chief guests at different IDEAS events. This time around again such VVIPs will be invited for the opening and proceedings of the exhibition,” said an associated event manager.

Captain Siddiq Akbar, a spokesman for the Defence Export Promotion Organisation (Depo) the organiser of IDEAS, said on Monday that so far no chief guest had been chosen for the inaugural ceremony. Dr Kursheed Nizam who is President of the E-Commerce Gateway, the event manager of IDEAS, told The News that almost 98 per cent of the stalls, pavilions, and other spaces available for the event had been reserved by the prospective exhibitors of armed and related products from the country and abroad. Some 65 per cent of the 200 participating companies whose military hardware and defence-related products will be on display during the exhibition, are of foreign origin.

The exhibitors of military equipment are from USA, UK, China, Turkey, South Korea, Italy, France, South Africa, Romania, Sweden, Belgium, Ukraine, Russia, Brunei, Thailand, Malaysia, and Canada. The Depo has sent invitations for official participation of the governments, concerned ministries, and departments of 80 countries, said Akbar.

In the 2006 exhibition, 221 defence manufacturing firms from 27 countries participated with 148 foreign and 73 domestic companies. Some 30,000 armed service personnel, concerned professionals, and analysts visited the fourth IDEAS exhibition inaugurated by the then president and chief of army staff Pervez Musharraf.

Mussadiq Aziz, who was himself involved in IDEAS 2006 as manager of the stall of an exhibitor, some two years back had to face serious inconvenience in reaching the Aga Khan Hospital where his wife was undergoing treatment. His ordeal started at least three days prior to the inauguration of the event, as he could not avail the normal passages through the Habib Ibrahim Rahimtoola Road or any road near the Civic Centre to reach the hospital.

“Such advance tools and systems of surveillance and security are now available in the country, that there is no need of the complete closure of roads in a radius of lets say five-kilometres around a high-profile exhibition area like that of IDEAS,” said Aziz who himself is experienced in event management. He said that during the fourth IDEAS exhibition, owing to a disruption in the shuttle bus service, the exhibitors, organisers, and visitors at times had to walk for 20 minutes from the National Coaching Centre where the parking facility was developed for the mega event.

In a written communication from the Depo Headquarters in Rawalpindi, the following measures have been taken for minimum disturbance to the people of Karachi when conducting the exhibition this year. The Depo is in liaison with the Karachi Traffic Police in order to maintain a smooth flow of traffic during the entire exhibition, with a minimum closure of roads in the vicinity of the Expo Centre.

The timings of the exhibition have been kept during the non-rush hours so as to avoid traffic gridlocks at Sharea Faisal. The Depo is also going to be in close liaison with the FM radio channels to give live updates to the public about closed routes and roads to avoid any traffic jams while suggesting alternate routes.

Source: http://www.thenews.com.pk/print1.asp?id=130977

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