KARACHI: The trade and business community of Karachi came out on the roads of Saddar on Thursday to air their grievances regarding the government’s decision of early closure of shops during Ramazan.
Qais Mansoor Sheikh, chairman of the All Pakistan Caterer Decorator Event Organisers’ Association, said that he was all for allowing the shops to remain open till sehri during these days when people come out for iftar and like to roam around in the markets as they shop for Eid. “Just like our restaurants have been allowed to function by arranging outdoor seating, the shops should also be allowed to remain open till late,” he said.
“If you close all the markets at 6pm, there will hardly be any sales. And we are still reeling from last year’s seven-month lockdown,” he said.
“Expecting sales, they have stocked up merchandise in advance by taking loans. They will go bankrupt if they are not allowed to do business now,” he said.
Jameel Paracha, chairman of the Sindh Tajir Ittehad, said no customers like to come out for shopping in the heat. “The 6am to 6pm timing does not suit customers, especially the ladies who like to come out for Eid shopping after iftar, when the weather has also cooled down somewhat,” he said.
‘If you close all the markets at 6pm, there will hardly be any sales’
Asked what were the ideal timings that the shopkeepers were hoping for, Mr Paracha said they would be happy to open from 12 noon till midnight. “That’s when you get the retail buyers, too,” he said.
“The business community of Karachi is being pushed against the wall here. We can also see that we were never the real problem, and that the shop owners and the business community are falling prey to a political game here as the real issue, we feel, is the NA 249 elections. The government wants to postpone the elections and it is creating this scenario of extreme danger due to the rise in Covid-19 cases,” he claimed.
“If we are not allowed to do honest business ahead of Eid, then mark our words, we will be left with no choice but to go for civil disobedience,” he warned.
“I mean, why should we not be allowed to do honest business? We are not here to make losses. We are hardworking people. We are taxpayers. Let us do that at least. This time ahead of Eid is when we can make up for all our past losses,” he said.
Saleem Malik, president of the Lighthouse Sports Market Association, directed attention towards those who only do good business during Ramazan. “There are those who sell footwear, those who sell bangles and artificial jewellery, those who sell dupatta and scarves, those who apply henna, beauty parlours, etc. They are all only looking forward to these days to make some extra money. Think about them. Have a heart,” he said.
Abdul Aziz of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce said he wanted only one day’s closure for the markets. “Since Friday also has an extended prayer break, we can also make it a market holiday. But beyond that, we just cannot afford to keep shops closed,” he said. “And weekends, that is Saturdays and Sundays, the markets must remain open because those who work throughout the week only have that time to do their Eid shopping,” he said.
Published in Dawn, April 23rd, 2021