ISLAMABAD/RAWALPINDI, May 2: With the general elections approaching, a number of businesses have seen a boom in the twin cities.
“From printing of stickers, banners, streamers and flags to catering and rent-a-car service, the owners are earning good profits these days,” said Ahmed Umar Munawer, a trader at Najam Square near Peshawar Mor in Islamabad.
“I do not know about the larger prospect of the economy but at least some businesses are booming because of the elections,” added Mr Munawer.
A visit to different parts of the capital city showed that main political parties like the PML-N, PTI, PPP and JI have established over 200 roadside campaign offices.
When asked if election days boosted economic activities, social economist Dr Qaisar Bengali said: “Elections can’t create any major new economic activity instead it increases the flow of money from the rich to the poor.”
He added that an industrialist or feudal lord would spend more money on his election campaign in the shape of printing banners and giving meals to the potential voters.
However, a few businesses are booming with each passing day. “We have rented out around 20 vehicles to several political parties and are earning around Rs150,000 a day,” said a rent-a-car owner, who refused to share his name. “The demand for rented cars has gone up with the approach of the elections,” he added.
“We are charging around Rs14,000 per day from the PML-N candidate Anjum Aqeel Khan for tents and chairs, including a single table, placed in different parts of the city,” said Mr Saqib, who owns a tent service business at Peshawar Mor.
For an independent candidate in NA-48 in Islamabad, the daily expense is over Rs50,000. “I am giving three-time meals to all the visitors to my home besides paying the rent and fuel charges of vehicles other than drivers and security guards,” said the candidate who did not wish to share his name.
“I am also providing boarding to over 100 people who have come from my village in Kasur,” he adedd.
Manzoor Hussain, a driver, added: “My services have been given by my company to a leading political party for almost a month.”
He said he was happy to be on the driving seat for the last two weeks and would continue with the assignment till May 3.
In Rawalpindi, candidates are hiring motorcycles on rent and giving them to their young supporters to take rounds of the city waving the flags of their respective parties.
Three shops at Committee Chowk are renting out motorcycles at Rs100 per hour. “Every evening, I rent out around 50 motorcycles to the candidates,” said Imtiaz Ahmed, a dealer of rent-a-motorcycle.
He did not want the name of the candidate to be printed in the newspaper. “On the elections day, the rent will be doubled and this has already been conveyed to the candidates in NA-55 and NA-56,” he said.
“Earlier, I used to earn Rs2,000 per day but for the last 10 days I have been getting Rs12,000 daily,” he said.
Car dealers: The car dealers are also busy in booking their vehicles for the elections day rallies. “The candidates do not approach us directly but make advance payments through their supporters. Nobody will give you the exact amount of money they have received but the cars are being hired on double rates,” said Ahmed Saleem, a member of the car dealers association.
Sports goods: The dealers in sports goods are also making money mostly from the sale of bats, the election symbol of the PTI.
Approximately 3,000 bats were sold from eight shops in Raja Bazaar on Thursday morning alone. We placed orders with the main dealer and he advised us to sell all the substandard bats which could not be used for playing cricket,” said Mukhtar Ahmed.
He said toy tigers, the election symbol of the PML-N, were also selling like hot cakes. People mostly wanted to place the tiger on their vehicles. He said sports shops had also arranged toy tigers.
Catering services: The demands for chairs and food have increased with the setting up of election offices and political parties arranging corner meetings.
The caterers in Bhabara Bazaar, Chittian Hattian, Commercial Market, Sadiqabad, Tench Bhatta and Saddar are making Murgh Pulao Deg for supply to gatherings of political parties.
“Earlier, the five to 10 kg Deg of Muraq Pulao was available at Rs2,500 to Rs3,300 but due to the urgent orders we have increased the rate to Rs4,000 to Rs5,500,” said Rafique Sultan, a cook at Chittian Hattian.
The demand for chairs and tables on rent has also increased. “We already provided all the stock to election offices and there are no more chairs and tables for rent,” said Malik Naseer, at Iqbal Road.
Security gadgets: “We provided to some candidates cellphone jammers and walk-through gates on rent. Some have got installed security cameras in their houses,” said Mohammad Shahid, a dealer at Benazir Bhutto Road. He said their business had increased but not too much. “We deal in security gadgets but it was very rare people hired these gadget on rent,” he said.
On the other hand, owners of sweet shops were not happy as the electioneering did not create good impact on their business. “In the past, supporters and party workers used to buy sweets in bulk for the opening of election offices. We are selling sweets as per routine,” said Chaudhry Zafar, the president of the sweet shops association.