ISLAMABAD/RAWALPINDI: Traders of Rawalpindi city and cantonment on Friday announced that they would observe a shutter-down strike on Saturday (today).

The Pakistan Traders Association has given a strike call across the country against taxation measures adopted in the budget 2019-20. The traders of Rawalpindi district also supported the strike.

Sharjeel Mir, Punjab Traders Association President, told Dawn that the traders had decided to observe a complete shutter down in the province. He said shops in small towns and villages would also be closed.

He said the provincial government tried to stop the traders from holding the strike but “we made it clear that the shutter-down will remain peaceful.” However, he said the traders were also considering staging a sit-in at D-Chowk Islamabad to press the government for acceptance of their demands. But this will be the last option.

He said the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) had imposed the condition of computerised national identity card (CNIC) for the purchase of products costing more than Rs50,000 along with the new taxation measures which were not acceptable for the traders and customers.

Capital’s food outlets, stationery dealers will also observe shutterdown against govt’s taxation measures

Shahid Ghafoor Paracha, President Anjuman Tajiran Rawalpindi, said the traders would express full support to the strike call and all shops would remain closed.

He said the traders were not against taxes but had reservations on the procedures adopted by the FBR.

“We wanted to simplify the tax submission procedure like payment of utility bills of electricity and gas but the government made it complicated.”

He said the traders demanded Prime Minister Imran Khan should meet their representatives and listen to their problems. The demand was simple but the government did not take it seriously, he added.

Meanwhile, a delegation of district administration officials, comprising Assistant Commissioner Cantonment Rimsha Javed and Assistant Commissioner City Naeem Afzal, met traders of cantonment on the directives of Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Ali Randhawa.

Cantonment traders led by Sheikh Hafeez and Zafar Qadri made it clear that the traders would not block roads or stage any protest.

“It is our right to stage protest or observe a shutter-down strike against cruel actions of the government but the district administration was informed that the traders will remain peaceful,” said Cantonment Traders Association General Secretary Zafar Qadri.

Capital’s food outlets to join strike

In Islamabad, food outlets, restaurants, books and stationery shops have assured the traders that they would join the strike.

Addressing a press conference at the National Press Club, leaders of various groups of traders announced that the community was united to pursue their demands.

“We are all united and reports that any group of traders had parted ways were incorrect,” said Ajmal Baloch, President All Pakistan Markazi Anjuman-i-Tajiran.

He said a small group of traders in Lahore by the name of Traders Alliance that had been affiliated with the PML-N government had announced not to observe the shutter-down strike on Saturday.

“These people have no standing and to ensure that the shutter-down strike is successful we have made contacts with all our partner groups across the country,” Mr Baloch said.

Responding to a query, he said there was no report from any part of the country that authorities were pressuring them against the strike.

“We have told everybody, including the district administration, that the strike is not over any political issue but against the wrong policies of the FBR,” he added.

At the same time, he warned that if the FBR and the government did not responded positively to their demands, the traders would hold protest demonstrations blocking roads in the next phase.

While the traders, including wholesalers and retailers, have opposed the government move to introduce tax measures in the supply chain, manufacturers and importers are not part of the strike call.

“We too want that there has to be an increase in the tax net but there should not be any injustice with any category in the business chain,” said Malik Sohail, head of the capital office of Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI).

However, he added that the FPCCI had not yet made any decision to participate in the strike.

“We do not take any decision in haste. We are analysing the results of a recent meeting between the prime minister and the leaders of the business community in Karachi,” he added.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2019