Traders united against withholding tax, divided in their protestArchive
ISLAMABAD/RAWALPINDI: In response to a call for a shutterdown strike against the imposition of a withholding tax on banking transactions on Saturday, only some shops remained shut as traders in the twin cities remained divided on the issue.
A tax of 0.6 per cent was initially imposed on banking transactions of Rs50,000 or more, but was reduced to 0.3 per cent on July 12, following the promulgation of an ordinance by President Mamnoon Hussain. However, traders across the country continued to oppose the tax and demanded for it to be repealed.
In the federal capital, a partial shutterdown strike was observed as the group of traders led by Ajmal Baloch wanted to go on strike on August 1 (Saturday), while the group led by Kashif Chaudhry wanted to go on strike on August 5 (Wednesday). On Friday, the two groups reached an agreement to go on strike on both days but the Chamber of Commerce issued a press release, announcing that the Joint Traders Action Committee has decided that the shutterdown strike would be observed on August 3 (Monday).
On Saturday, most shops in markets including Super Market, G-11 Markaz, I-8 Markaz, Peshawar Mor, Karachi Company, Ghori Town, I-10 Markaz remained shut. However, a partial strike was observed in Aabpara and Jinnah Super Markets.
Super Market Traders Welfare Association President Sarfraz Mughal told Dawn that traders would not accept this tax.
“The government should avoid coercive means of tax collection and make efforts to expand the tax net in consultation with all stakeholders, including business leaders of the country,” he said.
Mr Mughal said that in addition to businessmen, this tax would also cause difficulties for ordinary Pakistanis.
“I met a woman who saved a few hundred thousand rupees for her daughter’s wedding but when the time comes and the money is drawn, tax would need to be paid. A majority of people also do not understand how to refund the tax,” he said.
Meanwhile, the strike in the garrison city also fell victim to divisions among traders with 80 per cent of shop owners responding to the call. Across the country, traders were divided among two groups, the Mian Abdul Manan Group and the Khalid Pervaiz Group.
Mian Abdul Manan group gave the call of strike for August 1 and other group will observe strike on August 5. On Saturday, the strike was mainly peaceful with a few scuffles taking between the two groups and both registered complaints against one another with the Gunjmadi and City Police Stations.
The PML-N Traders Cell President Shahid Ghafoor Paracha, who is associated with the Abdul Manan Group said that the government should withdraw the tax otherwise the traders would come out on the streets.
“The PML-N government was known for trade friendly policies, it should uphold its reputation,” he said.
Rawalpindi Anjuman Tajaran spokesman Naveed Kanwal said: “The PML-N wants to sabotage the protest of the traders by creating divisions within the community. Traders should unite and observe a strike on August 5.”
Meanwhile, with a number of shops being closed, business activities in some areas came to a standstill but in other places such as Commercial Market and China market it was business as usual. Even on Murree Road, a number of shops were open and others had shutters half down and asked their customers to use side entrances.
Some medical stores, restaurants and petrol stations were also open for business but put up tarpaulin around their outlets.
Published in Dawn, August 2nd, 2015
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