Traders associations, lawyers, Jamaat-e-Islami and others
take part in protest viz rising costs of living, power tariffs
ISLAMABAD: A shutter-down strike is being observed across the country on Saturday to protest rising inflation and electricity bills.
The strike call came from Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and different traders associations and was supported by lawyers, with the legal community boycotting courtrooms.
Commercial hubs and business centres remained shut in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar as well as other cities across the country. Public transport and other forms of commute were also restricted, reducing vehicular traffic on major thoroughfares.
In Karachi, the Tajir Action Committee (TAC) has given the interim government 72 hours to reduce excessive electricity bills and withdraw recently imposed petroleum levies. This announcement was made yesterday (Friday). While commending JI for raising its voice against increasing costs of living, TAC Convener Muhammad Rizwan said that there was no compulsion on traders in the metropolis to join the strike today but skyrocketing inflation is worrisome.
The traders’ body warned that if the interim government does not follow through within the 72-hour deadline, they would hold a prolonged strike of 10 days, impacting commercial activities across the board.
He reminded Interim Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar that a caretaker government’s mandate is to hold elections not impose new taxes.
Most commercial markets remained shut in the metropolis on Friday with smaller shops remaining open.
Friday’s strike call by the traders’ association was extended support by the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI).
Speaking to The Express Tribune, KCCI President Mohammad Tariq Yousuf clarified that large-scale industries were not part of the strike on Friday while expressing verbal support for small traders and wholesalers to ensure its success.
Nevertheless, KCCI itself remained closed, suspending the issuance of certificates to exporters and the processing of visa documents for businessmen for one day. It was learnt that this impacted export consignments and shipments at the ports.
He expressed hope that the incumbent government would find a viable solution to emerge out of the crisis and said that a meeting would be held in a few days to review the situation.
Similarly, Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) President Irfan Iqbal Sheikh has said that the government is failing to read the writing on the wall. By increasing petrol prices once again, the interim set up is inviting a fresh wave of inflation, he said, adding that it is most worrisome that the petroleum levy has been raised to Rs60 per litre. “Out-of-box thinking is required to emerge out of the economic crisis,” he said.
The caretaker premier has on his part denied that the sudden increase in electricity bills is a concern and termed it a “non-issue” while asserting that consumers “have to pay the bills”, reported several media outlets.