July 18, 2020

By Ahmed Saeed


Lahore: Honking in protest, traders from across Pakistan led a car rally from Lahore, headed for the Prime Minister House in Islamabad. They complain that it has become nearly impossible to do business due to heavy taxation by the government and ‘unreasonable’ closing timings that shopkeepers have to adhere to.

In Lahore, traders from various businesses gathered at Thokar Niaz Baig to start their march towards Islamabad. The slogan of their movement is “honk the horn and wake up the rulers”.

Rizwan Butt, additional secretary-general of Anjuman Tajran Lahore told voicepk.net that the traders have four demands including a reduction in taxes levied by the government.

“Our first demand is that the government should waive off shops’ rents,” Butt said adding “the second issue if of timing because it is possible to do business by closing the shops at 7 pm. We also demand that authorities allow us to open the shops on weekends.”

According to Butt, the traders had also protested against government policies in March but then PTI leader Jahangir Tareen and former FBR Chairman Shabbar Zaidi had given them assurances that their demands will be met.

“Now the government has dismissed both our guarantors! The government neither fulfilled any of our demands nor are they listening to us, that’s why we have taken to the streets once again.”

Ali Shan, who is associated with the hotel industry said that restaurants have been closed for the last four months leaving waiters and other staff in dire financial crisis.

“Government has banned people from dining in restaurants, which is why our waiters have become unemployed and some of them have even tried to commit suicide due to their miserable financial conditions.”

He has also criticized the government for its failure to stop the price hike of essential commodities. He sarcastically said that whenever Prime Minister Imran Khan took notice of any issue, the situation actually becomes worse.

“If a sack of flour is now being sold at Rs. 1100, then how can we sell a chappati for Rs. 7? Inflation is rising under this government. I urge PM Imran Khan not to take notice of the price of chicken, otherwise, that too will become unaffordable”, Shan quipped half-jokingly.

Abid, a young protester, said that if the government had imposed a strict lockdown in the beginning, the situation would have been better and businesses would have opened properly.

Traders’ leaders said that in the first phase, they would park their vehicles outside the Prime Minister’s House in Islamabad and record their protest by honking horns, and if even then the government does not meet their demands, they would announce their future strategy.