LAHORE     -   Many trade leaders in Lahore on Tuesday strongly opposed the call for a shutter down strike given by a group of traders on October 28th and 29th, and called for more consultation, unity, and a joint strategy to serve the cause of business community.

A good number of leaders belonging to different trade bodies met at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) and, after a detailed discussion, they simply rejected the two-day strike call given by All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajiran last week.

Early this month, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa met leading business tycoons and briefed them about the improved security situation in the country. On this occasion, the business leaders presented various suggestions to the COAS to improve the ease of doing business. Gen Bajwa told the business leaders that national security was intimately linked to the country’s economy.

Following this rare meeting, some media reports claimed that the business community had expressed strong reservations over the working of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). But, NAB Chairman Justice (retired) Javed Iqbal rejected the impression and said that he would personally listen to the grievances of business community at least once in a month.

The NAB chairman said the business community’s income and sales tax-related cases would be referred to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). “NAB is not harassing honest, law-abiding businessmen, who are providing jobs and playing their active role in the development of the country as per law,” he had said.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the trade leaders agreed that there must be good relations between the government and the business community for the economic uplift of the country. “In this connection, it is necessary that the government recognises the genuine demands of the business community and solve their problems immediately,” they concurred.

LCCI President Irfan Iqbal Sheikh presided over the meeting while Senior Vice President Ali Hussam Asghar, Vice President Mian Zahid Jawaid Ahmad also attended the meeting. Former LCCI presidents, Mian Anjum Nisar, Sheikh Muhammad Asif, Muhammad Ali Mian, Sohail Lashari, Shahid Hassan Sheikh, trade leaders Khalid Pervez, Ashraf Bhatti, Haji Muhammad Hanif, Nasir Hameed Khan, Waqar Ahmad Mian, Babar Mahmood, Mehboob Ali Sirki, Haji Ghulam Mohiuddin, Shahid Nazir, Liaquat Sethi, Raja Adeel Ashfaq, and Chaudhry Khadim Hussain also spoke on the occasion.

They said that the business community was worried and markets were facing a severe decline in businesses due to difficulties in fixed tax and existing taxation system. The industrial sector was not functioning properly as well, they noted. They said that this was the right time to remove complexities from the fixed tax system on urgent bases. The traders called upon the government to take immediate action in this regard.

They said that businessmen wanted to pay taxes, but they were afraid of the complex taxation system. “If these complexities are done away with according to the suggestions given by traders, then matters will be settled easily,” they stressed.

Last week, the traders from all over Pakistan had reached the federal capital to participate in the planned protest demonstration outside the Headquarters of the Federal Board of Revenue.

Talks between traders and the government failed on various issues ranging from mandatory sales tax registration to the condition of presenting a CNIC copy for buying and selling goods.

However, some of the traders are hopeful that the government would reconsider its decision and accept their demands by providing them the fixed tax regime. The government had imposed the condition of providing copy of CNIC on supplies to unregistered persons under the Finance Act, 2019. Only parliament can withdraw this provision as it is part of the Finance Act.

When the latest round of talks also failed the traders’ central body had announced that they would observe a countrywide shutter down strike on 28th and 29th of this month.