ISLAMABAD: Traders have warned of a serious clash like situation with the local administrations across Punjab due to the lockdown in markets, not only during the Eid days but also during the first ten days of next month.

President All Pakistan Anjuman-i-Tajiran Ajmal Baloch, president of the Punjab chapter of the body Shahid Ghafoor Paracha have slammed the Punjab government over the lockdown and arrests of several traders on charges of violating the closure.

“Businesses are open in other provinces, even in Islamabad business is as usual but in its twin city there is complete lockdown,” Mr Baloch said.

“This is unfair, the lockdown is not the only solution, even the prime minister has reiterated several times that complete closure of businesses is more harmful,” he added.

In a statement the traders demanded that the Punjab government had to devise a relief package for the traders too so that the losses could be covered.

“This is a wrong decision of the government which has destroyed small traders, we get all the items for sale on credit and we have to pay it back,” Mr Baloch added.

Mr Paracha has warned that the decision makers needed to devise a relief plan or face province-wide agitation in coming days.

He said the Punjab government had extended the lockdown up to Aug 6, and there are limited working hours on Fridays while markets are closed on Saturdays and Sundays.

“It is obvious that there will be a massive rush in all the markets across Punjab after Friday prayers on Aug 7, and we fear that authorities will again use this rush as excuse to further the lockdown,” Mr Paracha said adding: “The best solution is to increase the business duration so that the rush of buyers is disbursed.”

He added the traders have cooperated with authorities in first five months and suffered losses but the government has not given any relief to the traders.

Mr Paracha also said that many shop owners had even issued eviction notices to the traders as they have failed to meet the ends need for several months.

“If these conditions continue, we will be forced to make a strong decision after Eid and launch a protest drive against the government, which will be mainly due to the wrong planning of the Punjab government,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2020