FAISALABAD: Traders and industrialists refused to pay the electricity bills and announced a shutdown on Feb 25 once again against the government’s decision of increasing gas and electricity prices, imposition of computerised national identity card (CNIC) condition and 17pc sales tax on them.

Earlier, they had announced a wheel-jam strike in the city on Feb 10 and the call for strike was withdrawn on Feb 1 on getting assurance from Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar. The governor had visited the Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FCCI) and convinced the traders and exporters to withdraw the strike call as the government would resolve their issues.

Addressing a press conference on Saturday, traders action committee chairman Mian Naeem along with the Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Sikandar-i-Azam said they had demanded resignation of Prime Minister’s adviser on Commerce, Textile, Industries and Production and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood who was not capable of holding the portfolio.

“We are being pressed for the protest and this time we would go on a strike on Feb 25 for acceptance of our demands. The government should hold talks with us or the scope of the protest will be expanded,” they said and added that a large gathering would be held at Clock Tower Chowk on the strike day.

Mian Naeem said the industry would be shut down and it would not pay expensive electricity bills.

“Those who are considered to be policymakers are the mafia,” Mian Naeem claimed.

FCCI President Sikandar-i-Azam said the government had deceived the traders and now the protests would continue until their demands were met. He said traders, power looms, textile mills and sizing industries would be closed on Feb 25.

Sikandar-i-Azam added that a few people were benefitting from the elimination of the zero-rating facility which is destroying the entire system by imposing the restriction of the CNIC. He said they would not go anywhere to have a talk with the government and would talk on their issues in Faisalabad.

“The government is talking about giving jobs while our business is being destroyed,” he added.

The governor assured the traders that their issues would be resolved, however, he did not contact them again, the FCCI president said and questioned about the promise of Imran Khan regarding the textile policy. He said the PM was not sincere even with his workers and the poor were being looted through sugar and flour rates.

Mian Naeem said during press conference, Mr Dawood had sent a message and invited the Faisalabad traders to Islamabad on Feb 26 for dialogue. However, the traders had refused to meet him.

Published in Dawn, February 23rd, 2020