RAWALPINDI: The announcement by the Punjab government to close all markets in the province from Tuesday till August 5 to check the spread of Covid-19 during the Eidul Azha holidays triggered anger among traders.
As the announcement was made and a notification issued to enforce a lockdown for nine days, a large number of shoppers thronged markets causing gridlocks at the main crossings of Murree Road and in Raja Bazaar.
The traders rejected the government’s move and announced that they would not pull their shutters down come what may.
Sharjeel Mir, a traders’ leader, in a video message said when the government started the lockdown to combat the coronavirus the traders launched an awareness campaign and supported the safety measures to contain the spread of the virus.
He acknowledged that the government had earlier accepted a traders’ demand and started the smart lockdown.
Capital admin closes Margalla Hills, parks, picnic points as well as expressway to Murree till end of Eid holidays
“But this time, we can’t afford more lockdowns when the Covid-19 cases are decreasing.”
He said traders had already suffered huge losses due to the closure of businesses and cannot afford another lockdown.
“If the government insisted on the nine-day lockdown, the traders will strongly resist it.”
Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) President Saboor Malik said traders had faced a huge financial crisis amid the lockdown.
Addressing a press conference at the RCCI office, he said the government’s decision to close markets from July 28 to August 5 would plunge traders into more financial difficulties.
RCCI senior vice president Nowherwan Khalil Khan, vice president Mohammad Hamza Sarosh, Shahid Ghafoor Paracha, Sharjeel Mir, Sheikh Hafeez, Arshad Awan, Sheikh Sadique, Taj Abbasi and Tahir Taj Abbasi were also present.
“We cooperated with the government to cope with the pandemic when the first lockdown was announced but it would not be easy for the traders to go for a nine-day lockdown on the eve of Eidul Azha,” he said, urging the government to review its decision.
Sohail Altaf said different unions were supporting the traders’ stance as the government was not cooperating with traders to resolve their problems.
“Out motive is to overcome unemployment and we should be allowed to continue our businesses till Eid,” he said.
The capital administration closed all public places to prevent the spread of Covid-19 during Eidul Azha.
Officials said Margalla Hills, parks, picnic points and hotels were locked down on the order of Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Hamza Shafqaat.
These places will remain closed till the end of the Eid holidays. Besides, Murree Expressway will be closed on Monday till the end of the holidays.
Meanwhile, the business community of Islamabad rejected the smart lockdown in the capital and closure of markets in Punjab and announced to resist it.
All Pakistan Anjuman-i-Tajiran and Traders Action Committee Islamabad President Ajmal Baloch along with the Punjab president of the traders’ body Malik Shahid Ghafoor Paracha reacted sharply to the lockdown announcement.
Addressing a press conference at the National Press Club along with Khalid Chaudhry, Taj Abbasi and Sajid Butt, they termed the decision of the Punjab government unjustified.
“If it is done, the business community will put up full resistance and the responsibility for the situation will be on Chief Minister Usman Buzdar,” said Mr Baloch.
He said Federal Minister for Information Shibli Faraz had recently announced that there would be no more lockdowns. Mr Baloch also referred to the statement of Prime Minister Imran Khan supporting smart lockdowns.
“But this decision of the nine-day lockdown is unjustified,” Mr Baloch said.
The traders said the decision would lead to collapse of the local economy and badly affect small traders. — Additional reporting by Munawer Azeem & Kalbe Ali
Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2020