MUZFFARGARH/ KHANEWAL/ BUREWALA/ BAHAWALNAGAR/ SARGODHA/ SIALKOT/ TT SINGH/ GUJRANWALA/ KASUR-The call of All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajran (APAT) to observe shutdown against excessive taxation by the government was responded as markets and business centres across Punjab remained closed on Saturday.

Traders demanded that the government review its economic policy, saying that its decisions regarding tax imposition causing harm to the domestic trade industry. They also demanded immediate withdrawal of, ‘what they said’, unnecessary taxes.

In Muzaffargarh, 90 percent business centres and markets remained closed. Some shops, however, remained partially opened due to personal efforts of Kot Adu Assistant Commissioner Jam Aftab who has an additional charge of Muzaffargarh. He personally met trade union leaders and convinced them to open market in greater interest of public. APAT Punjab Additional Secretary Sheikh Amir Saleem led a protest procession. Workers and leaders of other trade organisations participated in the procession.

They raised anti-government slogans. Police, on the other hand, conducted a flag march to keep law and order situation in control. Alipur and Jatoi were totally closed; while in Kot Adu and Muzaffargarh, the strike remained partial. People suffered problems in obtaining daily commodities. The district administration and police proceeded against those forcing shopkeepers to close their shops. Overall the traders showed solidarity against the taxation imposed in budget 2019-20.

In Khanewal, traders across the district observed a complete shutdown against the government for increasing sales tax in federal budget 2018-19. On the call of APAT, a nationwide shutdown was observed on July 13.

On the announcement of local trade unions and business chambers, business activities remained suspended as all big and small markets of the district remained closed. The strike was an effort by the business community to convince the government to withdraw ‘anti-business measures’ announced in 2019 federal budget. However, small food points, pan shops, and hotels remained opened.

Trader Chamber President Inam Qureshi said that all the traders were united at one platform for a genuine cause, adding that the business community was united and observed a shutdown with full force. “The government spared no effort to divide the business community but in vain,” he said, and adding that all kinds of business activities remained closed.

In Burewala, traders observed a shutdown in the city on the call of APAT as all main markets and bazaars, grain market, fruits and vegetables market, pesticides, fertilizers and car dealers closed their businesses against the proposed new taxes under the current regime.

Most of the traders’ associations and organisations in the city were unanimously observed the shutdown in protest against the taxes imposed by the federal government in budget 2019-20. The APAT had called for a countrywide strike against the new tax regime. President Markazi Anjuman-e-Tajran District Vehari Haji Jameel Bhatti, Vehari President Irshad Hussain Bhatti, Mailsi President Saleem said that they would not negotiate with the government till the withdrawal of unfair taxes. “The government is trying hard to divide us, but we will not be divided.” They rejected the new budget, ‘what they said’, made by bureaucracy on the instructions of International Monetary Fund (IMF). Other traders were of the view that without bringing any reforms in FBR, the government has handed over budget matters to the IMF. However, the traders supporting Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) stance said that they wanted to give time to the government because the previous rulers had destroyed the economy. They expressed their optimism that due to the government’s prudent policies, the economy would be back on track soon.

In Bahawalnagar, a complete shutdown was observed against the imposition of excessive taxes by federal government. Local traders demanded that the government withdraw these taxes. They warned to extend their protest if their demands were not met. The strike was observed on the call of APAT. The markets of Tehsil Bazaar, Anarkali Bazaar, Sarafa Bazaar, and all the shopping centres and medical stores remained closed. As a result, people especially patients suffered a great deal of inconvenience. On the occasion, traders’ representatives - Sheikh Anwar, Sheikh Sajid Mehmood and others said that the government should withdraw the decision of excessive taxes. They added that the condition of recording NIC on sale invoice should also be withdrawn while tax should be imposed on net profit rather on turn-over. They said that tax collection should be made from manufacturing level and traders should not treat as withholding agents. They warned to prolong the protest over non-acceptance of their demands.

In Sargodha, traders observed a complete shutdown, and all kind of business activities remained suspended in the city. A protest rally was organised by various traders associations including Markazi Anjuman-e-Tajran, Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Pakistan Beco Light Association, and Electrical Manufacturing Association. They started their march from Block No. 22, and their rally ended at Chowk Shuhada Mosque after passing through different bazaars and roads. Speakers including Sheikh Nadeem Khawar, Mirza Fazalur Rehman, Sheikh Asif Vohra, Kh Tariq, Nasir Mehmood Sehgal, Sheikh Naeem Kapoor, Mian Abdul Jabbar, Hassan Yousuf and others while addressing participants of the rally said that they had completely rejected the ‘IMF budget’ and did not accept all new taxes. They said that businesses of the trading community were badly disturbed due to heavy taxation by the government.

In Sialkot, local traders observed a complete shutdown against the imposition of heavy taxes by the government. On the appeal of APAT Sialkot, the traders kept their shops and business centres closed in all main markets and bazaars of the district. President Sialkot Markazi Anjuman-e-Tajran Mehr Ghulam Mujtaba told the newsmen that strike of the traders was against the imposition of, ‘what he said’, cruel taxes by the government. He said that these taxes had badly ruined their businesses besides hiking the prices of daily use items and giving rise to unemployment.

In Toba Tek Singh, about 80 percent shopkeepers closed their shops till noon. However, majority of them opened their shops afternoon. Till noon, Saddr Bazaar and main markets of the district remained closed. However, fruit and vegetable market and small markets remained opened. In Gojra and Kamalia, majority of the shops remained opened; while in Pirmahal, majority of the shops remained closed.

In Gujranwala, the business community observed a complete strike against the imposition of taxes in federal budget as all main markets of the city including Cloth Market, Steel Market, Gold Market, Urdu Bazaar, Rail Bazaar, Satellite Town market, etc. remained closed.

In Kasur, traders observed a complete strike against heavy taxes by the government. All the main markets and bazaars remained closed in the district. Even small markets were not opened, and vendors were nowhere to be seen. Traders demanded that the government review its economic policy because its steps were causing harm to the local trade industry. They threatened to expand their protest if the government did not review its policy.