ISLAMABAD: The government has been working on legislation to provide legal cover to street vendors, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) Dr Sania Nishtar said on Tuesday while addressing participants of a webinar organised by Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE).

Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division (PASSD) took the initiative in March this year but it could not be carried forward after spread of Covid-19 but work on the subject is being resumed now.

“We had an initial consultation on the subject in March 2020 following which Covid-19 overtook everything but now we are resuming this dialogue. PASSD will work very closely with Pakistan Institute of Development Economics [PIDE] to bring this legislative bill for the protection of street vendors and to channel this bill in the government system,” she said, adding she will hold a consultation on the bill within the next ten days.

Street vendors, she said, have remained an integral part of urban economy around the world as they provide a range of goods and services to middle-and low-income segments of society, adding, this economic activity is a major employment vehicle for them.

However, in Pakistan, the potential of street vending has not been harnessed despite existence of a policy developed in 1986 for Islamabad Capital Territory and subsequent convening of special committee in 2015 and 2017 for Municipal Corporation Islamabad (MCI); a comprehensive framework for street vendors has still not been developed.

The existing framework in this regard states responsibilities and penalties applicable due to violations but a comprehensive framework including rights, privileges and entitlements of street vendors is still not clear.

PIDE Vice Chancellor Dr Nadeem-ul-Haque said: “In Pakistan, street vending is a neglected area among government, academia, society and donors’ circles. Policy makers have aimed more towards establishing car-oriented cities, while excluding the poor and especially street vendors from the public space. Pakistan is witnessing entry of 2 million youngsters in the job market annually. Creating opportunities in street vending will resolve the government issue of job creation to a very large extent.”

Published in Dawn, November 4th, 2020