PESHAWAR: For decades, artisans and traders in Peshawar’s Namak Mandi have been grinding and polishing precious and semi-precious stones, extracted from mountainous areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa of the province and Afghanistan.
Though hearing Namak Mandi, one is involuntarily overwhelmed with thoughts of food but besides the tikka shops with lamb and chicken on display, dozens of gem shops also beckon customers with crushed and polished gemstones.
Experts say most of the gemstones are found in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan and the tribal districts, however, a huge quantity of gems were also brought from Afghanistan. But now because of the war and restrictions imposed by the Afghan government, Namak Mandi is not getting enough gemstones from Afghanistan.
Samad Shinwari, a gemstone dealer told Mashriq digital that emerald and garnet are being extracted from Panjsher, Tourmaline from Kunar and Laghman and Lapis Lazulior from Badaghshan but now all the routes are closed and border is fenced so it difficult for Afghans to transport it to Peshawar. Shinwari said these stones are in high demand so lack of supply has affected routine business.
Shinwari informed that the business had shrunk ‘alarmingly’ after wave of terrorism as foreign customers no longer turn to this market after year of militancy and extremism. He said that no foreigners visit the market, except Chinese who do not make enough purchase.
Pakistan’s precious and semi-precious stone deposits are worth trillions of dollars and it has huge market in United States, Thailand, Germany and Dubai. The traders advised the government to organize more gemstones trade fairs in major cities of the country and abroad as foreigners are taking high interest in emeralds and rubies.
Riaz Khan, a gemstone trader, said they have the facility to grind and polish every stone – except diamond – but not up to the international standard. Khan stressed said there is an urgent need to establish more institutions to train workers in excavation, polishing and cutting gemstones. The trader said that government has setup some institutions but not sufficient to train workers in cutting and polishing gemstones according to international standard.
The gemstone dealers complained that 95% of the business is now depended on exports and now online sale is playing a major part in this regard. Riaz Khan said that they use Etsy, Gem rock, ebay and other such websites to sell gemstones abroad. But the trader said that they are facing numerous problems in online trade as PayPal is being used for online trade worldwide but since its service is not available in Pakistan, gemstone dealers could not fulfill most of orders from abroad.