Conformity Assessment

Pakistan has formulated and issued a coherent National Quality Policy and Plan (NQP&P) to develop quality infrastructure and guide quality related operations and applications in the country. A study conducted by UNIDO under TRTA I identified compliance and quality issues as major challenges faced by exporters in Pakistan in gaining increased access to global markets. The surveys of industrial sectors conducted in the inception period has shown that there is still only limited acceptance in target markets of tests performed in Pakistan and certificates issued in the country. This sub-component therefore seeks to improve conformity assessment infrastructure and services.

The need remains for institutional strengthening of the national standards body (PSQCA), which is mandated to establish national standards, operate system and product certification schemes, conduct compliance testing, and disseminate information on standards and technical regulations (via a Consumer Liaison Office (CLO) and the National Enquiry Point, both established with assistance from TRTA I). There are ongoing weaknesses identified in the standards setting methodology. The NEP does not yet function fully effectively; it must also be better linked to the ISO information system and brought to full operation as WTO notification body for technical regulations. PSQCA continues to apply a number of standards as technical regulations and performs mandatory certification (a conflict of interest with its standard setting powers). There is no coordination of technical regulation development across different areas. Overall, PSQCA needs to re-define its role based on an objective assessment of the needs of Pakistani industry and realistic prospects for provision of standardization and conformity assessment services. This is likely to include a revision of its mandate and associated legislation.

The national standards of measurement in Pakistan are kept by the National Physical and Standards Laboratory (NPSL) in their metrology laboratories in Islamabad. Secondary laboratories in various regions such as the Calibration Laboratories of Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR) in Karachi and Lahore provide calibration services traceable to the national standards maintained by NPSL. Many gaps still exist in the measurement capabilities of NPSL, in particular, for engineering measurements (calibration of plain limit gauges, thread gauges, gears, force and hardness, flow) and force measurement. The traceability of the national standards housed at NPSL metrology laboratories is not yet established as NPSL metrology laboratories have not achieved internationally recognized accreditation to ISO 17025.

NPSL is yet to become signatory to the Mutual Recognition Agreement of the International Committee for Weights and Measures (CIPM/MRA). Overall, there is a remaining need for significant strengthening in the area of calibration and metrology, with a focus on sectors linked to international trade.

The global demand for the application of various management systems (quality, environment, food safety, GAP, CSR etc.) and an increasing number of both public and private standards require a response by Pakistani enterprises as an entry condition to international markets. About 20 certification bodies and over
30 inspection agencies are active in Pakistan. Almost all the certification bodies are linked to their corresponding foreign organizations. There is clear empirical evidence that many standards are not effectively implemented, and often regarded as a paper exercise. By June 2010, only one certification body was accredited by PNAC (although 10 requests have also been logged). Industry wide application of CE marking (a safety related certification required for selling products in the EU market) is yet to be practiced (which hampers exports of sports goods, electric fans and cutlery clusters). There is a need to render credible certification practices of international repute in Pakistan, including application of CE marking by enterprises and industries.

TRTA I assisted 19 laboratories to achieve internationally recognized accreditation to ISO 17025 by an internationally recognized foreign accreditation body, which was chosen due to the lack of internationally recognized local accreditation capacity in the country. These testing laboratories had to rely on continued TRTA support to sustain their accreditation status particularly to meet the cost of mandatory annual surveillance visits by the foreign accreditation body. There is an urgent need to provide affordable and sustainable accreditation services to testing and calibration laboratories. The Pakistan Accreditation Council (PNAC) has been set up under the Ministry of Science and Technology mandated with the task of accreditation of laboratories, certification bodies and inspection agencies. Over the last five years, PNAC has been engaged, through TRTA I support, in developing its operations and conducting accreditation work, in conjunction with the internationally recognized foreign accreditation body, focusing on testing and calibration laboratories. PNAC has now become signatory to the Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) with APLAC and ILAC in respect of accreditation of laboratories. However, it is yet to achieve international recognition through conclusion of Multilateral Arrangements (MLA) with IAF for accreditation of Certification Bodies and Inspection Agencies. There is also a need to continue support to testing laboratories in seeking accreditation to ISO17025. However, accreditation support and the testing laboratories to be assisted must be sustainable. Programme activities in this area are therefore recommended to include support for business planning of laboratory services, organization of local PT schemes, and certification practices.

Hence, the focused activities to achieve the result of this sub-component constitute the following: