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Traders strike over PTI govt’s new tax measures

By News Desk
July 14, 2019

LAHORE/KARACHI/RAWALPINDI: Traders opposed to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government’s new taxation measures and moves towards documenting the economy largely kept their businesses closed across the country on the weekend.

The strike call was given by the All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajran (APAT). Traders have been calling for the reversal of the condition for sellers to demand buyers’ Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC) numbers and the imposition of high rate of sales tax in the federal budget, among other demands. However, some factions of traders stayed away from the strike and opened shops and markets.

Various markets in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar as well as Multan and Dera Ismail Khan observed shutter down.

Earlier in the day, APAT General Secretary Naeem Mir said the business community was united and would observe a shutter-down strike with full force. He claimed the government was sparing no effort to divide the business community but in vain. “All kinds of business activities will remain closed throughout the country,” he said.

In Rawalpindi, however, trade bodies were divided on the strike call. The leaders of three groups of traders’ association announced their support for the shutter down, while another opposed the move.

Reacting to the strike, Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar tweeted: “I would like to appreciate the majority of shop owners that today rejected the strike call and have shown willingness to change the tax culture of Pakistan. We are in contact with the representatives of trade associations to formulate a workable way forward towards documentation.”

Punjab Industries Minister Mian Aslam Iqbal said traders are playing into the hands of political parties and causing problems over the taxation issue.

A day before, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Chairman Shabbar Zaidi at a news conference regretted misleading information was being spread about zero-rating, sales tax, CNIC issue and the imposition of taxes on edible items.

Zaidi said the board was engaged in negotiations with the business community across the country and was mainly discussing the issues related to zero rating and requirement of CNIC for sales tax. “We are clear, we will not take any decision that would affect the industry and business of Pakistan,” he had said. Clarifying that CNIC requirement was only for sales tax, he said confusion was being created on the issue as some people were trying to resolve their other issues by exploiting that matter. The FBR chief clarified the CNIC condition had not emerged in income tax law rather it came under sales tax law.

He had said the FBR wanted to introduce fixed tax scheme for small shopkeepers and that would resolve the CNIC issue. He, however, added there was need to define “small shopkeeper” and urged the business community to draw those limit lines.