For the time being, the Sindh government has been able to persuade the irate traders and retailers in Karachi not to immediately violate the anti-coronavirus lockdown regime in place, and to continue to abide by the government-prescribed timings for daily business activities.
This was the amicable outcome of talks held at the commissioner’s office on Saturday between senior government officials and representatives of different associations of traders.
The provincial government’s side was led by Information and Local Government Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah.
While taking part in the negotiations, the information minister appealed to the traders to defer their announcements to violate the lockdown regime till Monday (tomorrow).
He assured the representatives of the traders that a meeting of the provincial task force on the coronavirus would be held on Monday and the session would likely accept all the demands of the traders.
He said a complaint cell would be established at the office of Karachi’s commissioner to entertain the complaints of the concerned traders round the clock.
Talking to media persons after the talks, the information minister said there existed no rift or tension between the provincial government and the traders.
That was why, he added, the traders had decided to defer their announcements till Monday. He said that better decisions would be taken at the upcoming meeting of the provincial coronavirus task force, and all the demands of the concerned traders in this regard would be accepted.
He announced that the city’s traders would be extended many facilities by the government. He said coordination committees had been constituted at the district-level to sort out complaints of traders related to the unreasonable attitude of the police and administration towards them.
Shah mentioned that earlier no politician of the Pakistan Peoples Party had opposed or criticised the further tightening of the lockdown regimes in the main cities in the upcountry when the situation of the coronavirus had worsened there a few weeks ago.
He said the PPP had always honoured the lockdown regime as it was meant to safeguard the lives of people, but in Sindh the opposition political parties resorted to politicking on the issue and started a protest campaign.
The information minister said Prime Minister Imran Khan and the National Command and Operation Centre were fully onboard when the Sindh government had decided to tighten the lockdown restrictions in the province.
He mentioned that earlier the federal authorities concerned themselves had pointed out that the ratio of coronavirus cases had been much higher in Karachi and Hyderabad, so tightening the Covid-19 restrictions had become inevitable in these cities.
On Friday, highlighting the businesses’ deteriorating condition amid the ongoing lockdown restrictions, leading traders’ associations had announced that they would open shops and businesses till 8pm today and vowed to resist the Sindh government’s order to seal shops for violating the lockdown and Covid-19 standard operating procedures.
The announcement was made in a meeting of leaders of various traders’ bodies. The traders also announced the formation of a ‘Traders Action Committee’, a joint body of traders’ associations of the city, to make collective efforts against the Sindh government’s restrictions on business activities amid the pandemic.
The Karachi Electronic Dealers Association’s Rizwan Irfan has been made convener of the action committee, while Jamil Paracha, Atiq Mir, Sharjeel Goplani, Hakeem Shah, Waqas Azeem and Rana Raees have been made deputy conveners.
Representatives of markets, shopping malls, wedding halls, hotels, and banquet organisations are also part of the new alliance.
After the formation of the committee, the traders took the oath to obey its decisions.
Traders’ leaders agreed that all major markets would be open till 8pm on Saturday.
If the provincial government tried to seal business and arrest traders, traders would resist it and protest on the roads, said Hakeem Shah. “If the provincial government wants to make arrests, they are also ready to fill the jail.”