Lahore traders called for a two-day strike on Tuesday in protest of the government’s tax policy and conditions on providing CNIC.
On day one of the strike all major markets in the provincial capital remained closed. It was learnt that wholesale markets in Shah Alam, the walled city, Icchra, Ferozepur road and Badami Bagh along with other small retail markets observed the strike.
Similarly markets in Urdu Bazaar, Band Road, Davis Road, Saddiq trade center, Baghbanpura, Mughalpura, Dharampura markets, Anarkarli, McLoad Road, Gunpat Road, Nila Gumbad, Daroghaywala, Naqsh Bandi Bazaar, Gold Markets, Cantonment Board Markets, Brandath Road, Cycle Market, Mintgomery Market also remained closed.
Lahore chamber of commerce also supported the strike and no activity was carried out there.
Traders said that they were disenchanted with policies of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government and said they could not afford the imposition of new taxes.
Malik Aftab, a trader from Shah Alam said, “We call for the government to take its decision back since it is hurting our businesses and destroying our livelihoods.”
Another trader Shahid Khan said, “People are so fed up with increased inflation and the rise in prices that there is no buying power among people now. I deal in wholesale ladies suits and have never had much trouble since the past twenty years when I first started off in this business but the policies of the current government and the prevailing economic environment is proving to be detrimental to our ability to do business; I have lost many customers and am now even considering closing down my shop.”
Khawaja Ehsan, a shopkeeper from Dharampura said, “We will remain on strike for two days so that the government realizes the severity of the matter. Even if we open our shops and businesses we would not be earning anything, therefore going on strike will not affect us much.”
A shopkeeper of Mughalpura area, on the other hand, told Pakistan Today that he could not earn anything on Tuesday because of the strike. “I am going home empty-handed and have two kids to feed. I am unable to understand the policies of the new government as it is doing nothing but harming poor people like myself.
Another salesman of Band Road area said, “The strike will only make people like us suffer. We have no other source of income. My wife works as a cook in two houses and I work at the shop to make ends meet. How will we be able to earn our livelihoods in such an environment?”
While talking to Pakistan Today, president of the All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajran, Ashraf Bhatti said that there was a camp set up to protest against the government. “Traders have staged a successful strike and have proved that we do not agree with the IMF’s agenda. The country will likely suffer a loss of billions of rupees as a result of this strike which will force the government this issue.”
“Our future strategy will be based on the government’s response,” he added.
President of Anjuman Traders Khalid Pervez said, “We haven’t refused to pay taxes but we have been urging the government to conduct surveys of the markets. It is not possible to transfer all the burden of the IMF agreement on to the traders. The government must reconsider its decision.”
Pakistan Trader Alliance Lahore President Nasir Hameed Khan while talking to Pakistan Today said that the government should pay heed to the traders’ concerns as the country is going through a period of serious economic instability, “There should be no CNIC matter involved in the purchasing of items up to Rs500, 000. From these trading markets, not only the traders but several others associated with the business also earn a livelihood. This is a cycle which the government fails to understand.”
Mujahid Maqsood Butt a trade leader said, “The government should fist control smuggling and must work on controlling illegal trade and then it should turn its attention to traders.”
“The PM needs to realize that traders are not a part of any political party or association,” he added.
Traders demanded a fixed tax to be imposed by the government in addition to limiting the working capital in turnover tax at 15 crores. They also disagreed with the government’s policy of CNIC provision and demanded that the income tax form should be a one-pager.