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July 12, 2019

Traders vow to strike tomorrow


July 12, 2019

LAHORE: Traders on Thursday reiterated their resolve to observe a strike across country on Saturday, July 13, while the Punjab government claims a faction of the business community has called off strike after 7-hour-long talks at the Punjab chief minister’s office.

According to a Punjab government announcement, the trader organisations held talks with Punjab Minister for Industries and Trade Mian Aslam Iqbal and MPA Nazir Ahmed and their all demands were accepted by the provincial government. Therefore, the markets will open as per routine on Saturday. However, the government official did not name of the traders with whom talks were held.

However, contrary to the government claims, Anjuman-e-Tajiran Central General Secretary Naeem Mir said strike was not called off, and not a single trader leader from the markets of Punjab held talks with the provincial government. “We make it clear and also announce that the issue of taxation is related to the federal government and, therefore, talks with the Punjab government are meaningless. So, no talks will be held with the government till July 13,” he added.

Further, All Pakistan Marble and Granite Industry Chairman Mehboob Ahmad Serki also confirmed that the strike was not called off and no one from their sector attended Thursday’s talks with the Punjab government. The marble and granite traders would hold a protest against the government policies on Friday after Juma prayers and it had already requested the police to ensure security, he said, adding that the strike would be ensured on Saturday as well.

Sources said Pakistan Traders Alliance Lahore President Nasir Hameed, who is former vice president of Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), headed the traders’ talks with the government on Thursday. However, the central leaders including head of Pakistan Traders Alliance Muhammad Ali Mian and Babar Mehmood of Al-Khidmat Group Hall Road skipped the meeting and kept their phones switched off. Muhammad Ali Mian is also former head of PML-N Traders Wing and he used to manoeuvre the traders politics on the government instructions in the recent past whenever traders would give a strike call.

According to a handout, issued here on Thursday, Punjab Minister for Industries Mian Aslam Iqbal said all genuine demands of traders were approved after 7-hour-long talks. The federal government would be contacted for seeking solution to some issues.

He said the anti-government trade organisations were propagating that computerised national identity cards (CNICs) would be demanded from every customer. This condition is only for the main dealers, not for the shopkeepers, and customers. Fixed tax system is being introduced for the sub-dealers, he said adding that no tax was being imposed on small shopkeepers. He said the government system could not be run without taxes. Those who were able to pay tax were being brought into tax net.

He said that CNIC condition was for those who were doing business with mills and it would not be demanded from the customers, who would purchase less than R50,000 products. A separate tax system would be brought for the jewellery association with their consultation. He said neither the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) would conduct raids on markets nor freeze anyone’s accounts.

He said the prime minister would be concerned with providing relief to transporters in connection with 2 to 4 per cent tax. The minister said the Punjab government had decided not to increase prices of 20kg-flour-bag and it would be available for the old price of Rs770, and the government would give subsidy in this regard. He said the Punjab government was giving subsidy of Rs42 billion for providing flour at reasonable rates.

He said checking prices of essential commodities was a right of the government if it was giving subsidy of billions of rupees. He said a summary had been sent to the PM for taking back tax on ghee. He said turnover tax on cement, ghee and sugar had also been decreased. He said that sincere efforts were being made by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government for overcoming economic crisis. Member Provincial Assembly Nazir Chohan said that taking traders and small segment of society along was vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

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