LOWER DIR: All the markets and bazaars were shuttered and private educational institutions mostly remained closed on Tuesday in protest against the government’s plan to impose taxes in the Malakand division from July 1.

The protest call was given by Malakand Division Traders’ Federation.

A complete shutter down strike was observed in Swat, Shangla, Buner, Malakand, Lower and Upper Dir, Lower and Upper Chitral and Bajaur.

In Lower Dir, rallies and walks were held in Chakdara, Talash, Timergara, Khall, Munda, Samarbagh, Lal Qila and Mayar. Traffic on the roads also remained thin.

Dir Qaumi Pasoon, a citizens’ body, also arranged a protest rally in Timergara against the imposition of taxes in Malakand division. Its members demanded of the government to immediately reverse the decision and announce special package for residents as the region had been affected by militancy, earthquakes and floods.

Rallies, walks also held across the division

They said the government was already collecting indirect taxes from the people in utility bills, edible items and petroleum products.

The traders’ leaders threatened to march on Islamabad if the government did not reverse its decision of imposing taxes in Malakand.

In Swat, people from different walks of life, including traders, lawyers, doctors and transporters, suspended their services.

Members of the Peshawar High Court Bar Association, Mingora Bench, also abstained from appearing in the court.

Likewise, the private schools management declared support for the traders by announcing a strike, leading to closure of all private schools in Swat.

In Bajaur, traders staged a demonstration against the government’s plan to impose taxes in the Malakand division.

All Bajaur Traders’ Association and Bajaur Chamber of Commerce and Industry organised the protest.

The participants were holding banners and placards inscribed with slogans against taxes.

Traders’ body president Mohammad Hamid Sufi, chamber president Haji Lali Shah, Khar traders’ association president Haji Amir Rahman, Inayat Kallay traders’ union president Imran Mahir and others led the protest.

Meanwhile, a complete shutter down strike was observed in various towns of Malakand district, including Batkhela, Thana, Dargai and Sakhakot, while private schools also remained closed.

Local chapters of political parties also joined the strike and took out rallies under the banner of Tehreek Tahaffuz-i-Haqooq Malakand, a local rights’ body. Lawyers and local government representatives also joined the protest.

The traders took out a rally from Zafar Park in Batkhela to the old bus stand and raised slogans in support of their demands.

The speakers said they would continue to raise their voice against the imposition of taxes in Malakand division.

Life came to a standstill in both Lower and Upper Chitral districts on Tuesday due to a shutter-down strike by traders against the imposition of taxes in Makakand division.

The bazaars wore a deserted look due to the closure of shops, restaurants and shopping centres in Chitral city, Drosh and Booni towns.

In Khyber, the traders’ community in Jamrud tehsil observed a shutter-down strike and also held a demonstration at Bab-i-Khyber against the imposition of taxes.

Holding banners and placards in their hands, they threatened to march on Islamabad if the taxes were not withdrawn.

Addressing the protesting traders, Jamrud traders’ association president Kashmir Iqbal said tribal business community was still reeling from the impact of decade-long militancy and subsequent military operations and were thus entitled to exemption from all types of taxes for at least a decade.

He said that the recent imposition of taxes further compounded their financial woes.

In Shangla, traders observed a shutter-down strike against the government’s plan of extending the tax net to the Malakand division.

Bazaars in Bisham city, Puran, Alpuri, Belay Baba, Karora, Shahpur, Olandar, Damorai, Dandai, Chakesar, Martung, Dehrai and other areas remained closed.

Mohammad Zada, Bisham trade union president, told Dawn that they had no option but to observe strikes as their elected representatives were not taking interest in the issue.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2024

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