KARACHI: Just a day after the trade bodies gave a 72-hour ultimatum to the Sindh government to meet their nine demands, including extension of business hours to 8pm from the current 6pm, the business community started gaining political support for their campaign as on Wednesday the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf vowed that it would not tolerate “excesses” with Karachi’s trader community.

The support came from Leader of the Opposition in the Sindh Assembly Haleem Adil Sheikh, who during a meeting with leaders of trade bodies strongly opposed the provincial government measures “in the name of lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus” and warned that his party would join the protesting business community if the situation was not reviewed by the Sindh government.

“If anyone now tries to harass the traders, we will break their legs,” he said while speaking at a press conference after meeting leaders of trade bodies at his office in the Sindh Assembly. “After 6pm the police start their own lockdown and heavy illegal fines are imposed on traders for opening shops. Traders are forced to bribe [to operate] their legal businesses. The chief minister is the head of the Sindh police so he’s indirectly responsible for all these illegal practices.”

He said the provincial government used the name of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) when it found it in its favour, but violated the directives of the national body when it found NCOC decisions against its political interests.

The traders’ delegation comprised Atiq Mir, Sharjeel Goplani, Jameel Piracha and others. The meeting was also attended by PTI MPAs and leaders, including Khurram Sher Zaman, Raja Azhar, Shahnawaz Jadoon and Naeem Adil Sheikh.

“The business is normal and open across the country, including different parts of Sindh, but the law is only enforced in Karachi,” said Mr Sheikh. “Due to the timely efforts of the federal government, today Pakistan is not facing an India-like situation. Our poor people will die of hunger if such a strict lockdown continues. The Sindh government is trying to scandalise the NCOC and exploiting the situation to defame the national body.”

He said any conspiracy against traders was considered a move against Pakistan and the Pakistan Peoples Party was putting national interests at stake for its “vested political gains”. He also claimed that several measures of the Sindh government to contain the spread of the virus were not in line with NCOC announcements.

“We are with the traders and nobody would be allowed to harass them. The traders should be allowed to keep open their shops till 8pm. We are in parliament due to the vote of Karachi. If the traders take to the streets, we would be with them come what may,” he added.

He said 40 per cent of votes in Sindh were bagged by the opposition parties and they had moral and democratic responsibility to protect the interests of their voters. He also demanded that the federal government transfer the Sindh IG and chief secretary as they had failed to implement the lockdown in its true spirit in Karachi.

“Here the traders are charged and penalised for doing their business and bandits are set free to loot the people. In just two days, bandits have killed five people in Karachi during armed robberies. Do the police authorities and Sindh government have the moral courage to answer about this?” he said.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2021

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