PESHAWAR: Traders took to the streets here on Tuesday against the sealing of shops, business centres and banquet halls over the violation of standard operating procedures enforced to stem the spread of coronavirus.
They also decried the arrest of their community members.
The district administration sealed hundreds of shops, business centres and banquet halls in the provincial capital over SOP violation and arrested more than 30 traders in Hashtnagri area for illegally unsealing shops.
Around 450 shops were sealed in Karkhano Bazaar, 350 in Qissa Khwani, 200 each in Hashtnagri and Charghano Chowk, a dozen wedding halls on Ring Road and GT Road, a commercial bank’s branch, several eateries and juice shops in Hayatabad, two brick kilns in Mattani and shops and plazas on the University Road.
The administration checked adherence to SOPs by carrying out surprise visit to different bazaars.
However, the Qissa Khwani Bazaar traders took out a rally and shouted slogans against the administration over arrests and sealing of shops.
The trader leaders, including Malik Mehr Elahi, Haji Mohammad Afzal, Shahid Khan, Mujeebur Rehman, Sharafat Ali Mubarak, Ghulam Bilal, Zafar Khattak, Khalid Gul Mohmand, Khalid Ayub, Habibullah Zahid and Abdul Naseer, held a meeting and called for the resolution of issues through dialogue.
They said they would take a unified stand against the administration if the traders’ demands against arrests, sealing of shops and imposition of fine were not accepted.
In a statement, Traders Alliance leader Ghulam Bilal said the shops had been sealed despite the promise of some ministers that the trader associations would be taken on board before such action.
He said shopkeepers couldn’t force customers to adhere to SOPs.
Mr Bilal claimed that the business community was following those procedures for own protection from the virus.
Markazi Tanzeem Tajiran Khyber Pakhtunkhwa president Malik Mehr Elahi told Dawn that the government should come up with a plan to create public awareness, especially of traders, about the importance of SOP compliance in the fight against coronavirus.
He said arrests and fines were no solution to the problem as Covid-19 could be controlled only if all stakeholders cooperated with each other.
“We need some time to ensure that our traders follow SOPs,” Mehr Elahi said, adding that many businessmen wore face masks but even then, the administration sealed their shops.
The trader leader said instead of the entire plaza, only the shops, where SOPs weren’t enforced, should be sealed.
He said the government was least bothered about taking action against those violating SOPs in transport vehicles, public meetings and religious gatherings and ‘teased’ business community that was intolerable.
Mr Elahi demanded of the government to announce financial relief for traders, who were badly hit by the last lockdown and can’t put up with fresh restrictions.
“We will hold a meeting with the district administration today (Wednesday) about SOPs,” he said.
Published in Dawn, November 25th, 2020