ISLAMABAD: While the residents of the twin cities had taken a sigh of relief after the suspension of a protest march to the federal capital by the banned Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, commuters were caught unaware of the blockade of Faizabad Interchange by traders on Tuesday evening.
The traders had been warning the government of initiating a protest by blocking Islamabad Expressway and the intersection between the twin cities if their demands were not met.
Incidentally, neither the federal government nor the district administration of Islamabad or even the general public took the matter seriously. As a result, the commuters in the evening rush hours witnessed gridlocks after All-Pakistan Anjuman-i-Tajiran took out a rally from Zero Point to Faizabad and staged a sit-in there.
The peaceful sit-in continued till late in the night with members of the business community protesting for the approval of their nine-point demands.
Key demands include withdrawal of presidential ordinance that allowed FBR to install sale tax devices
Led by Ajmal Baloch, president All-Pakistan Anjuman-i-Tajiran and the Traders Action Committee Islamabad, the key demand of the protesters was the withdrawal of the presidential ordinance that allowed the tax collecting body to install detection devices at the points of sale to determine the actual quantum of cash flow into the businesses.
Most of the traders and small businesses also do not accept digital mode of payments.
Addressing the gathering, Mr Baloch said the traders would not abide by the presidential ordinance nor allow the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to impose sales tax devices on their businesses.
“We demand that the government and the FBR implement the fixed tax system or self-assessment scheme. This sit-in has proved that we will stay firm on our commitment to resist the government’s move to install devices at the points of sale,” he added.
He said the government and the administration should immediately stop harassing the business community, adding giving police powers to the FBR will only increase bribery by the tax collectors and eventually all the items will become more expensive for the consumers.
As Faizabad and Islamabad Expressway were blocked, motorists faced confusion and there were reports about scuffles between the protesting traders and motorists.
The situation became serious as another protest rally by traders in Rawalpindi moved at a snail’s pace towards Faizabad to converge with their counterparts coming from Zero Point.
The role of the operations police and the traffic police remained negligible as the roads were clogged. However, after the protesters reached Faizabad, traffic started moving on one lane of the roads.
The commuters expressed annoyance at the police as neither the Islamabad Traffic Police nor the traffic wardens from Rawalpindi tried to manage the blocked roads.
“It took me four hours to reach Chandni Chowk from I-8/3 as the junction of Stadium Road and I.J. Principal Road was jammed,” said Imran Ahmed, a resident of Committee Chowk.
On the other hand, a traffic warden posted to Shamsabad in Rawalpindi expressed his inability to cope with the situation, saying Faizabad had been blocked unexpectedly and as a result traffic was clogged at almost every intersection. He said had an alternative plan been devised, re-routing the normal traffic could have been easy.
More than 250 bodies of the traders belonging to Rawalpindi city and the two cantonments participated in the sit-in.
Meanwhile, the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI asked the government to take stakeholders on board to resolve issues faced by the business community.
RCCI President Nadeem Rauf said FBR should focus on broadening the tax base instead of setting targets for tax collection.
Published in Dawn, October 27th, 2021