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January 31, 2015

Business thrives on Rawalpindi pavements


January 31, 2015

Whichever bazaar of Rawalpindi you visit a row of goods lines the narrow pavements. Abundance of goods on the pavements shows the scale of business there. Although pavement trading is seen as a nuisance that needs to be regulated and not as an important source of livelihood to the very poor and of inexpensive retailing to middle-class consumers, but still it is flourishing alongside flashy malls and superstores.
With more people frequenting fancy stores, the livelihoods of those selling wares on the street has never been at risk. Ali Naqi says: “I still manage to earn enough money by selling utensils and wind up my work by evening. The one thing that irks me is customers’ bargaining habit. I sell affordable stuff yet, people bargain with me. Can they do it in the big, flashy stores?”
“The shift to malls has not pushed me into the uncomfortable position of competing with big players to eke out a living. Over the years, the business has not dwindled rather flourished. Even though people prefer the bigger shops now, I’ve had very busy days,” says Agha Jafar from Saddar.
“Just go and see the roadside traders selling merchandise from Fawara Chowk up to Habib Bank square. Pedestrians are forced to walk on the roads or somehow squeeze through between the shops and pavement sellers. On the right side are people selling every kind of clothes and on the left side electrical appliances shops are keeping goods on the pavement. People struggle to keep their feet on the pavement, but do not object to the pavement sellers, says Hamayat Ali, an area resident.
“During the day time and night fall, the pavement sellers are seen selling everything from consumable to non-consumable goods. An eclectic mix of items can be bought on the roadsides -- from snacks, fruits and vegetables, fish, chicken, flowers, clothes, cigarettes, combs, to suitcases, shoes, under-wears, foot wears, newspapers, magazines, plastic goods, readymade garments, imitation

jewellery, cosmetic items, cutlery/ crockery, hardware items, furniture items, pottery, and amusement articles like toys and balloons etc. Soothing voices calling on passersby especially women like ‘Baji Jee’, ‘Khala Jee’ to buy constitute traders’ advertisement. ‘Cornwalas’, ‘chana chaat’ and ‘dehi bhallay wallas’, ‘french-fries wallas’ also attract young and old alike.
“As someone born and bred in Tench Bhaata, I get curious when I walk in the bazaar. In my part of the world, the sun does not set on traders. Men, women and children are seen busily buying and selling. I am so trapped in the crowd that I have to walk sideways. A young woman in her late twenties has the neck buried in the clothing she sells. Next to her is another old woman selling a pile of second-hand clothes,” says Ashiq Hussain, a civil aviation employee.
Kiran sells ladies’ bags in Commercial Market Satellite Town. On blue polythene spread on the pavement, his stuffed bags sit like bulldogs. “Oh the night time market here is fine. I make good sales every night”, Kiran puts in plain words why she sells at night.
“The least attempt to rid the city of such traders is often met with the accusation of rendering people jobless. But the fact that there are no jobs does not mean that we should compound the situation with behaviours that have the tendency of making life uncomfortable for people. We must make our city clean,” says Anwar Abbas, an encroachment department worker.

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