ISLAMABAD: As another round of talks between the traders protesting against certain tax conditions and the government failed on Wednesday, the All-Pakistan Anjuman-i-Tajiran (APAT) announced a countrywide shutter-down strike on Oct 28 and 29.
Traders from across the country reached Islamabad to participate in the planned demonstration outside the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) headquarters as a deadlock persisted on issues ranging from mandatory sales tax registration to the condition of presenting a CNIC copy for buying and selling goods.
Contingents of law enforcement personnel halted the protesters proceeding to the Red Zone. However, apart from minor skirmishes, no incident of violence was reported as the protesting traders remained peaceful.
APAT refuses to end protest after talks with minister-led team failed
They did not force their way to cross the police barrier after being assured by the Islamabad administration that a senior FBR official would be requested to come to the spot to listen to their demands. The decision paved the way for resuming negotiations between the traders and the government.
APAT central president Ajmal Baloch and general secretary Naeem Mir represented the traders, while Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar led the government team as FBR Chairman Syed Shabbar Zaidi was in Karachi.
Following the talks, the representatives of the protesting traders announced that the government was reluctant to withdraw the CNIC condition.
Mr Baloch said: “They [the government officials] have declined to revoke the order requiring traders to present a copy of their CNICs for the sale and purchase of goods. However, they have said that the authorities are willing to listen to our justified demands. Do you understand what does this mean?”
Mr Baloch further announced that after internal discussions, it was decided that the protest would continue until the demands were met.
He declared that the next round of talks would be held only with the FBR chairman.
The traders’ representatives said the FBR was not ready to listen to their demands and announced that they would not pay “unjust tax”. They reiterated that the business community would not accept the condition of presenting CNIC copies for every sale and purchase of goods.
“As we pay taxes on purchase of goods at the factory level, there is no need to document further details of traders,” Naeem Mir said, while addressing the gathering after the talks with the government.
Some of the traders, however, still had the hope that the government would reconsider its decision, accept their demands and provide them the fixed tax regime.
The government had taken the decision through the Finance Act 2019 by imposing the condition of providing CNIC on supplies to unregistered persons. Only parliament can withdraw this provision as it is part of the Finance Act.
As the latest round of talks also remained unsuccessful, the APAT announced that they would observe a countrywide shutter-down strike on Oct 28 and 29 — just a couple of days before the anti-government protest being planned by the opposition parties according to its revised schedule announced by the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl.
Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2019