Rawalpindi: The business community of Rawalpindi and Islamabad have staged a protest demonstration on Monday against government decision regarding closure of all markets and shops at 6 pm and three-day break of commercial activities in a week.
A big gathering of business community carrying banners and placards blocked both sides of Murree Road at Liaquat Bagh. A heavy contingent of police was present to control the situation. Police high-ups fully tried to remove protesters from road but in vain.
The leadership of Markazi Anjuman-e-Tajran, All Pakistan Marriage Halls Association, Rawalpindi-Islamabad hotels and Restaurants Association, All Pakistan Furniture Dealers Association, Muthidda Naanbhais Welfare Association, Employees Association of Pakistan, All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajraan, All Pakistan Chicken Retailers Association, and several other business groups were present in the demonstration on the occasion.
Markazi Anjuman-e-Tajran President Shahid Ghafoor Paracha rejecting the decision said that government wanted to destroy all businesses in the country in the guise of coronavirus. When all kinds of road transport, rail transport and air transport are continue and there was no corona but government is only imposing restriction over business community. We will not accept government decision to close down business at 6 p.m. and three-day break in a week, he said.
All Pakistan Traders Association (Punjab) President Shirjeel Mir condemned district administration decision to close down shops and markets at 6:00 pm. Government is forcing us to join PDM ‘Long March’ on March 26, he warned.
All Pakistan Amjuman-e-Tajran President Ajmal Baloch said that if our shops were closed forcefully, we would show a strong resistance. He said that already business community facing financial crisis due to lockdown situation in the country. “Government should stop financial murder of business community,” he said.
All Pakistan Furniture Dealers Association President Muhammad Taj Abbasi said that we have given a written oath to follow all SOPs to avoid spread of coronavirus in our shops but the administration and police are continuously harassing us. He said that government was playing with business community in the garb of coronavirus. People of all other communities are facing critical situation for over three years but government is neither providing any assistance nor allowing them to work freely, Abbasi claimed.
Muthidda Naanbhais Welfare Association President Muhammad Shafiq Qureshi said that government is killing poor man through its wrong policies. We are facing worst time of history buy our Prime Minister is seeing the whole drama with closed eyes, he denounced.
All Pakistan Marriage Halls Association President Malik Zahoor Advocate, against the decision said that they were facing worst ever financial crisis for a long time. “We will block all roads if district administration stop our functioning with force,” he warned.
Deputy Commissioner (DC), Rawalpindi Captain (r) Anwar-ul-Haq has said that we are following the orders of Punjab Home Department. If shopkeepers violated the orders, they would have to face strict legal action, he warned.
Meanwhile, the business community of the federal capital during a press conference at the National Press Club, Islamabad has strongly opposed the new restrictions imposed on businesses and called upon the government to withdraw them immediately to save the businesses from further losses.
Speaking at the occasion, Sardar Yasir Ilyas Khan, president, Islamabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ICCI) appreciated the role of DC ICT Hamza Shafqaat and his team for playing a frontline role against the spread of Covid-19 and cooperating with business community in running business activities.
However, he expressed concerns over the new guidelines of NCOC for new restrictions due to which the ICT Administration has issued a new notification to close all commercial activities, establishments, markets and amusement parks on Saturday and Sunday except for essential services. He said that this decision would badly hit the businesses that were already struggling for revival due to previous lockdowns. He said that in these tough times, businesses needed relief measures from the government in taxes, interest rates, loans and utility charges, but instead of providing any relief, the government was taking measures that would put businesses into deep troubles.
ICCI President said that the customers normally do shopping on weekends due to not finding time on working days. However, closing businesses on Saturday and Sunday will not only create problems for customers, it would also cause more rush in markets on other days and lead to further increase in the Covid-19 pandemic cases. Therefore, he urged that businesses should be allowed to remain open on weekends to avoid rush and curb the spread of coronavirus. He emphasized that instead of closing businesses on weekends, ICT Administration should focus on enforcement of SOPs and assured that the business community would fully cooperate with it in implementation of SOPs while running business activities. He also appealed to the traders not to allow entry to any customer in shops without a mask.
Ajmal Baloch, President, All-Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tijaran said that due to previous lockdowns and restrictions, businesses have already suffered huge losses while the government has not provided any compensation to them. They said the closure of businesses would render thousands of people jobless, therefore, new restrictions should be withdrawn.
Abdul Rehman Khan, vice president ICCI and the presidents of various Market Associations of Blue Area, Super Market, Jinnah Super, F-10 and G-9 and others including Yousaf Rajput, Ahmed Khan, Asad Aziz, Muhammad Ejaz Abbasi, Raja Javed Iqbal, Khalid Chaudhry also spoke at the occasion and said that the new restrictions would create a lot of problems for them besides causing them great losses.
Therefore, they urged that the ICT Administration should allow businesses to run on weekends.