PESHAWAR - The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KPCCI) President Zulfiqar Ali Khan on Sunday called upon both the federal and provincial governments to announce special packages for the promotion of commerce and trade activities in militancy-hit areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA.

Talking to media persons here at the chamber, the KPCCI chief said the business community of KP deserved special treatment because it continued its business in an environment of intimidation by terrorists, extortionists and target killers.

“The business community of the KP is not doing business for its survival, but it is actually fighting a war for the stability of the country,” Zulfiqar said.

He informed that businessmen, industrialists and even small traders were registering complaints with the KPCCI on daily basis of receiving phone calls from extortionists. “In such an environment, it is very difficult to stay and continue businesses,” he added.

The KPCCI president expressed grave concern over the issuance of notices by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) of freezing bank accounts of the KP businessmen just because of delayed payment of taxes by them.

He said the Regional Tax Office (RTO) was bound to pay rebate in 45 days and if rebates were not paid over a period of six months to one year, action should also be taken against officials of the RTO.

In the same breath, he demanded the RTO to stop harassment of business community by issuing notices of freezing their bank accounts. Zulfiqar also complained against commercial banks for not giving loans to the business community of the province because the KP is a Red Zone.

He said a couple of months earlier, the Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) had invited heads of around 40 commercial banks to Peshawar and directed them to lend loans to businessmen of the KP on easy terms as normalcy was returning in the wake of ongoing military operation against the terrorists.

“Sadly, none of the banks head obeyed the instructions of the governor, and we still are deprived of lending facility,” Zulfiqar deplored. The KPCCI head said that electricity and gas crises were also hampering economic growth of the KP.

“Despite the fact that this province is producing surplus gas, the federal government has imposed a ban on issuance of new industrial gas connections; resultantly no new industrial unit can be set up in KP,” he lamented.

He suggested introduction of business friendly policies for the revival of commerce and trade in KP and FATA.

“The KP government has recently unveiled an industrial policy, besides announcing incentives like concessions in bank mark up, electricity rates and provision of free plots to those who have set up new industries,” he said, and added, “However, the provincial government should also provide the same facilities to the existing industries as well. The government should realise the sacrifices rendered by the existing industrialists and provide them protection.”

He said the government had announced incentives, costing up to Rs2 billion, for new industrial units. “However, if these incentives are given to the existing industries, it will cost half of the amount,” he argued.

He called upon the PTI-led provincial government to exempt business community of the province from all sorts of taxes for a period of next five years.

Replying to a question about restoration of peace in Pakistan, especially KP, KPCCI president linked it with peace in Afghanistan. “Unless peace is restored in Afghanistan, people and business community in  KP will suffer due to acts of terrorism,” he opined.

He said that law and order situation had improved a lot in province due to ongoing military operation Zarb-e-Azb, but still extortionists are active in Afghanistan and making phone calls from there to the businessmen of KP. He stressed increased trade with Afghanistan and Central Asian countries.

Zulfiqar proposed the Afghan government to provide the same trade facilities to Pakistan, which it was extending to India and China.