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Strike, here and there.

Byline: Imran Ali Kundi

ISLAMABAD/Lahore -- Prime Minister Imran Khan's government faced its first countrywide strike on Saturday, staged by the traders against the government decision of documenting the commercial activities and imposition of more taxes.

Traders claimed their strike was successful as most major markets in many cities across the country remained closed on Saturday. The strike was staged at stores, shopping malls and wholesale commodity markets, as well as restaurants and grocers.

In many cities, produce vendors kept their shops closed, which residents said made it hard to get fresh fruits and vegetables. Small shopfronts were also closed in commercial districts.

The strongest participation was in Punjab. But even there, most of the smaller markets situated in different localities remained open. In the country's commercial hub, Karachi, division among retailers made the strike less effective.

The government seemed to be defying the pressure as it did not contact the traders representatives for listening to them.

Many ruling party leaders and government high ups termed the strike a failure, and alleged that pro-opposition traders' organizations were resorting to such steps to please their masters.

Some citizens took to social media to vent their anger against the protesting traders. They said the traders were trying to blackmail the government for keeping the economy undocumented to avoid taxes on their income.

The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has also refused to accept the main demand of the traders to withdraw proposal of the CNIC-based invoicing for transactions which aims at better assessing their tax liability.

'The government did not back out on the CNIC condition that agitated the traders,' said an official of the FBR. Prime Minister Imran Khan has already rejected this demand of the traders, he added.

Earlier, FBR had held negotiations with the business community and discussed mainly two issues: the SRO 1125, and requirement of CNIC for sales tax.

The SRO 1125 is a law that deals with the zero-rating tax regime, whereby exporters pay zero tax but claim refunds from the government on certain items that are part of their costs.

The CNIC condition, on the other hand, is a sales tax law. It requires traders who purchase supplies or make sales of Rs50,000 or more to produce their CNICs while making the transactions so they can be registered with the FBR and brought into the tax net.

All Pakistan Traders Association President Ajmal Baloch in a media interaction said that FBR and government only held talks with chambers and avoided smaller traders. He urged the prime minister to bring in a 'fixed tax system' in the country.

'We are ready [for a fixed tax system]... This is a wrong impression that we [traders] are launching this strike on behalf of any political party,' he said, while claiming that the bureaucracy of the country has been [intentionally] failing the government and the Premier.

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Publication:The Nation (Karachi, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Jul 14, 2019
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