LAHORE - Many shopkeepers reopened their businesses in Lahore on Wednesday evening as traders called off two-day countrywide strike following successful negotiations with the federal government over new tax policy.

The shutter down strike began on Tuesday morning on the call given by All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajiran. The traders were demanding the government to take back new taxation measures including mandatory tax sales registration and the condition of presenting a copy of ID-card for buying and selling of products.

After successful talks between traders and government, the Pakistan Industrial and Traders Associations Front appealed to Prime Minister Imran Khan to intervene and play his role in a peaceful and long-term solution of the problems being faced by the business community.

One day protest costs Rs30b

PIAF chairman Mian Nauman Kabir on Wednesday said that economy suffers an estimated loss of around Rs30 billion in a single day due to the shutter-down strike of small businesses. He said that traders’ turnover across the country stands at around Rs.50 billion while the share of this retail sector in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) stands at around 20 percent.

“According to rough calculations, retailers do businesses worth around Rs30 billion in one day,” he explained. The PIAF Chairman was of the view that the traders, who just wanted the government to simplify the tax procedure, were playing a crucial role in importing raw material and finished goods and supplying them throughout the domestic economy.

Nauman Kabir said small traders and the citizens were already facing severe financial crunch, as the government had levied heavy taxes on mere assumptions. He said that Pakistan’s economy is very different from that of the developed world, as its large part of the businesses is undocumented which can be registered through a gradual process. He said that IMF dictations regarding tax collection had made life difficult for the masses. He said that tax measures by the IMF are not aligned with the ground realities while FBR harassment had created mistrust and prompted protests across the country.

The PIAF Chairman also appealed to the prime minister and the PM’s Advisor on Finance to give due consideration to the demands of traders. He suggested that instead of enforcing tax laws in one go, the government should adopt a gradual approach to broaden the tax base.

PIAF Senior Vice Chairman Nasir Hameed said that the government and FBR are targeting the business community and harassing taxpayers instead of expanding the tax net. He said that traders play a major role in the economy of any country and all governments give incentives as well as provide them environment conducive for doing business but it is unfortunate that the present regime is creating difficulties for the business community. A complete shutter down strike was observed across Lahore on Tuesday and Wednesday as well. All leading markets and shopping centers including Liberty Market, Akbari Mandi, Shah Alam Market, Abid Market, and Moon Market remained closed for two days. Shops were also seen closed on the major city roads including main Ferozpur Road, Mall Road, Main Boulevard Gulberg, Jail Road, Wahdat Road, Multan Road, and GT Road.

During the two-day strike, most of the city roads including Mall Road, Jail Road, Ferozpur Road, Multan Road, Defence Road, Main Boulevard Gulberg, Iqbal Town, and Canal Road were presenting deserted look. However, only a few merchant shops and medical stores were opened in the posh and residential localities. The Gulberg Market including Liberty Market, Main Market Gulberg, Auriga Complex, Raja Centre, Sadiq Trade Centre, Cavalry Ground were partially closed.

Like other parts of the country, the business activities came to a halt almost all over the city as all the shopping plazas, commercial markets and business centers were closed down. However, heavy police contingents were deployed at all the leading arteries of the city to maintain peace in the provincial metropolis.

The commercial markets and business centers including Abid Market (electronics market), Hafeez Center, Azam Cloth Market, Pakistan Cloth Market, Rang Mahal, Circular Road, Neela Gumbad, Main Market( Ravi Road), Madina Electrics Market, Bottle Bazaar, Sarafa Bazaar, Moti Bazaar, Akbari Mandi and  Badami Bagh.