PESHAWAR: Traders’ bodies here have demanded of the government to collect data of the closed shops and provide them financial support under the relief package otherwise they will be unable to keep their workplaces any longer. They also urged the government to exempt them from all federal and provincial taxes.

The demands were raised by office-bearers of different trade bodies of Peshawar in a joint meeting here on Friday. Israr Ahmed, Shehzad Khan, Aamir Jahangir, Ghulam Murtaza, Nawaz Qureshi and others said that the business community had always extended cooperation to the government, but they were not supported so far.

In a joint statement, the traders said that if the government did not include them in the relief package then the business community of Peshawar would be unable to support the lockdown any longer. The traders, they said, had received electricity and gas bills, but they were unable to pay them due to financial constraints.

Markazi Tanzeem-i-Tajiran provincial president Malik Meher Ilahi said that small traders and shopkeepers had suffered due to the lockdown and urged the government to exempt them from all federal and provincial taxes. In addition, he asked for provision of interest-free loans, grants and waiving the rents of commercial state properties.

Talking to this correspondent, Meher Ilahi said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced relief package for exporters and industrialists, but small-scale shopkeepers were totally ignored. He said that grocery shops were opened, but they went short of different food items due to closure of wholesale shops.

He warned that in case the lockdown was extended the traders would be unable to afford daily domestic expenses.

“We are paying wages to our workers despite closure of shops. The government did not take traders’ bodies into confidence before announcing the lockdown and relief packages,” he said.

He also expressed concern over raids on shops for price checking, saying that being a member of the district price review committee he was not invited to a single meeting during the past six months to renew the price list.

Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2020