KARACHI: Traders and businessmen took to the streets and staged a protest demonstration outside the Karachi Press Club on Tuesday after their multiple meetings with the authorities failed to reach an agreement. They vowed to continue their campaign against the fresh restrictions on business hours imposed by the government amid growing cases of the coronavirus.

A large number of traders riding motorbikes, cars and vans took out a rally from Liaquatabad and staged a demonstration outside the KPC, demanding the withdrawal of fresh restrictions.

“The Sindh government had earlier issued a notification ordering all business centres to be closed by 8pm, effective from April 6, 2021,” said Sharjeel Gopalani, head of the All City Tajir Ittehad. “The traders have unanimously rejected the Sindh government’s coronavirus-related order to close markets by 8pm — in line with their stance last year when they protested against shutting the city’s bazaars.”

He said if the government wanted to keep businesses closed twice a week, it should allow round-the-clock trading during the five other days.

‘Last year they suffered huge losses and many were forced to close shop forever’

“We would soon announce a comprehensive plan of protest across the city. The traders last year suffered huge losses and many were forced to close down forever. We cannot afford the same situation this year again,” he added.

The Sindh government only on Monday had announced that the businesses across Sindh would remain closed on Fridays and Sundays following an increase in the country’s coronavirus infections.

“Keeping in view the feedback from field formations on the implementation of two safe days per week where different businesses within the same locality/premises are observing different safe days in a week and, therefore, the need to avoid confusion Friday and Sunday are declared as safe days for all businesses except essential services,” the notification said.

The traders appealed to the federal government as well to review its plan of restrictions on business hours and warned that the situation could turn ugly if the local administration continued to seal their businesses and thus deprive them of their livelihood.

Senior leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan Mohammad Hussain also attended the traders’ protest and demanded that the Sindh government review its policy.

The traders urged the government to review the fresh restrictions after the first 10 days of the holy month of Ramazan, which is due to start next week.

“We have proposed to the government to lift that restriction [two-day weekly closure] after 10th Ramazan. We hope to hear positively from them soon. Otherwise, it would not be in our control to stop protests by the traders,” said Atiq Meer of the Karachi Tajir Ittehad.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2021

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