Two-day nationwide protest by traders begins today

Updated October 29, 2019

Email

All major groups of traders have joined hands to observe a nationwide shutterdown strike against the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government over its “anti-business” policies, seeking to bring trade and economic activities across the country to a standstill on Oct 29 and 30. — AFP/File
All major groups of traders have joined hands to observe a nationwide shutterdown strike against the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government over its “anti-business” policies, seeking to bring trade and economic activities across the country to a standstill on Oct 29 and 30. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: All major groups of traders have joined hands to observe a nationwide shutterdown strike against the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government over its “anti-business” policies, seeking to bring trade and economic activities across the country to a standstill on Oct 29 and 30.

Traders’ associations in Karachi, Lahore, Quetta and other parts of the country in support of the strike call given by All-Pakistan Anjuman-i-Tajiran (APAT) and Markazi Tanzeem-i-Tajiran Pakistan (MTTP) vowed to close down all markets for two days to press for their demands, with the warning that the scope of the strike could be expanded.

APAT President Ajmal Baloch said the deadlock in talks with the Federal Board of Revenue had not been resolved, because the FBR chairman was allegedly following the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agenda and was helpless to take any decision. “The chairman [of] FBR makes promise of fixed tax regime in each meeting but retracts from that commitment within an hour,” said Mr Baloch while addressing a press conference at the National Press Club on Monday.

Community leaders believe strike will prove a referendum against ‘illegitimate decisions’ of PTI govt, FBR

“The stringent conditions of the IMF have destroyed the business of small traders and we are already hit hard by corruption in the FBR,” Mr Baloch said, adding that finance adviser “Hafeez Shaikh and [FBR chairman] Shabbar Zaidi have stopped the business activities in the country and even the economists have expressed this concerns.”

He said the government should understand that tax collection was dependent on business activity, and it was essential for the country’s economic growth that traders could run their businesses without fear or threat.

“We demand the government have confidence in the traders and cooperate with us,” said the APAT president.

Several markets and bazaars in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi have already displayed banners that shops would remain closed for two days in protest against ‘the anti-traders policies’ of the government and the FBR though business activities may also be affected on Oct 31, the day when the anti-government protest march by opposition parties would reach the federal capital.

The country’s economy would suffer a major blow if the FBR failed to bring any business-friendly policies, as consumers were gradually squeezing their purchases due to sky-rocketing prices of essential items that also affected sales, said All-Karachi Tajir Ittehad (AKTI) chairman Atiq Mir while announcing their support to the countrywide strike.

He said that all traders of Karachi under various associations would keep shutters down on both days to protest against additional duties and taxes on imports, the CNIC condition on transaction of Rs50,000 or above on locally produced items, sales tax registration, turnover tax, fixed tax etc.

He claimed to have been assured of full support by various associations that vowed to close down markets on M.A. Jinnah Road, Tariq Road, Saddar, old city areas, iron and steel market, and timber market. “If these markets get closed then it means 80 per cent main wholesale and retail trade will be paralysed on Oct 29 to 30,” Mr Mir warned.

He said the FBR created a deadlock on the negotiations, compelling the traders to close down their own businesses to protest against the “negative” business policies of the government.

Karachi Electronic Dealers Association (KEDA) President Mohammad Rizwan Irfan said shopping centres across the city would show their unity against the harsh measures being taken by the FBR that slowed down business activities. Similarly, All-City Tajir Ittehad Association (ACTIA) General Secretary Ahmed Shamsi claimed that markets in Korangi, Landhi, Malir, Hyderi and other areas would also remain closed.

“This is perhaps for the first time that no rift exists among trade bodies and all are on the same page to bring business to a standstill on Tuesday and Wednesday,” he said.

Trade and business activities across Balochistan would also be hit by the strike as the Markazi Anjuman Tajran, Balochistan, announced two-day shutter-down protest against the FBR attitude towards business community on the issue of taxes.

In a statement issued here on Monday, the Markazi Anjuman Tajran said traders and business community would keep their activities suspended on Oct 29 and 30. He said the strike would prove a referendum against the illegitimate and irritating decisions of PTI government and the FBR.

“The illegitimate and irritating terms and conditions and rules regulations of FBR have forced the business community to go on strike,” said Abdul Rahim Kakar, president of the Markazi Anjuman Tajiran, Balochistan.

Kalbe Ali from Islamabad, Aamir Shafaat Khan from Karachi and Saleem Shahid from Quetta contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, October 29th, 2019