Thursday July 07, 2022

Traders postpone business resumption after gradual ease assured

April 15, 2020

KARACHI: Traders on Tuesday decided to continue observing coronavirus-led lockdown after the Sindh administration assured them of procedures to gradually ease shutdown in two days.

Sindh Traders Alliance’s (STA) spokesperson Mehmood Hamid said the government officials assured them that they would finalise much-awaited standard operating procedures (SOPs) for gradual ease from almost one month long lockdown.

“The officers have assured they would take this issue to the chief minister and SOPs for markets would be finalised in two days,” Hamid said, citing a meeting with Commissioner Karachi and Inspector General Police Sindh. “Now, we will open the markets on April 17.”

Earlier in the day, traders said they would resume their businesses from Wednesday (today) as the provincial government could not decide procedures of gradual ease from coronavirus lockdown.

Traders, talking to media, said they would sit at home only if the government makes an alternative arrangement for their sustenance. “We have decided to restart our businesses from Wednesday,” said Rizwan Irfan, convener of Sindh Traders Alliance (STA), representing markets from across the province.

Irfan, who is also the president of Karachi Electronic Dealers Association, said the federal government agreed to open certain industries and relaxation in lockdown for them. “Markets should also be allowed to open,” he said. He said markets in Karachi will be open from 9 am to 5 pm.

Irfan said the businesses would ensure all safety and precautionary measures at their shops. “We will make all standard personal protection measures, but it is the responsibility of the government to control the customers,” he said. “We have seen police and rangers personnel arranging buyers in queues at super markets. The same can be done at our markets too.”

STA Chairman Jamil Paracha said traders are pressurised and harassed to keep markets closed. “Our cash flows have dried up, and now we are ready to be arrested,” Paracha said. “Inventories have piled up, and recoveries are stopped due to lockdown and disruption in supply chain due to the outbreak of coronavirus.”

Paracha said traders are not in a position to pay salaries amid zero sales. “If the lockdown is not lifted we will be forced to sack employees,” he added. “We are not going for civil disobedience, but we have no choice but to open the shops.”

However, All Karachi Tajir Ittehad distanced itself from the decision of Sindh Traders Alliance to opening markets. “We will not violategovernment’s lockdown policy,” Atiq Mir of Karachi Tajir Ittehad said. “The government should immediately notify the standard operating procedures regarding markets and traders. Several markets in the city are the part of All Karachi Tajir Ittehad.”

Mehmood Hamid of Small Traders Association said they are in constant talk with provincial government functionaries and expressed hope that markets would be opened from Wednesday.

Jawed Bilwan of Pakistan Apparel Forum said significant number of industrial units in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa started operation, while industry was never closed in Balochistan.

Bilwan criticised the provincial government for not finalising SoPs for industrial operations in province despite lapse of 25 days. Bilwani endorsed traders’ decision.

“They are doing the right thing,” he said. “Complete industrial and commercial lockdown would have a spiral effect. Halted industrial operation would hurt utilities’ business as industry and commercial sectors were the biggest clients of the utilities with almost no theft.”

H M Shahzad of Automobile Dealers Association said car dealers didn't invite a lot of people, and they were also willing to open their businesses. "I am writing to provincial as well as federal government requesting permission for opening the business. We do not want to open without the permission. I hope we will get the permission,” Shahzad said.