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Traders to go on strike against withholding tax today

Traders to go on strike against withholding tax today

LAHORE / ISLAMABAD: On a call given by all factions of the All Pakistan Anjuman-i-Tajiran (APAT), traders across the country would observe on Wednesday another strike in protest against imposition of 0.6 per cent withholding tax on banking transactions exceeding Rs50,000, it was announced on Tuesday.

The Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) said it supported the strike call.

Speaking at a press conference in Lahore, Naeem Mir of his own faction of the APAT, accompanied by members of the association’s Ashraf Bhatti group, said that traders were now united and that no tax could be imposed on them forcibly.

Take a look: Traders united against withholding tax, divided in their protest

The traders would no longer hold talks with the government on the issue, he said.

“If the government does not accept our demands we will observe a series of shutter-down strikes ... in the four provinces and in each and every small and big city in protest against the cruel taxation measures of the so-called business-friendly government,” he said.

Mr Mir announced that traders would observe their fifth strike on October 7 if the tax was not withdrawn by then. The traders would also mount a march on Islamabad.

He said that traders belonging to all the markets in Lahore — particularly the Anarkali Bazaar, Urdu Bazaar, Kashmir Bazaar, Ichhra Bazaar, Shahalmi Bazaar, Liberty Market, Rang Mahal Market, Badami Bagh Bazaar, Auto Market, Akbari Mandi, Dabbi Bazaar, Moti Bazaar and those along Mall Road, Hall Road, Beadon Road, McLeod Road, Brandreth Road, Ferozepur Road, Multan Road, Jail Road and Circular Road — had agreed to join the strike.

He said that Attique Mir, chairman of the All Karachi Tajir Ittehad (AKTI), and traders of some 500 markets in Karachi had agreed to support the strike. Therefore, the main markets in Karachi, especially those in Saddar, Tariq Road, Clifton, Defence, old city areas, Haji camp, Bohrapir, Liaquatabad and Nursery, would remain closed on Wednesday.

Mr Mir said that under the banners of the APAT and AKTI, the traders would also march from the Quaid’s mausoleum to the Karachi Press Club via the Mereweather Tower.

The Central Union of Traders of Islamabad had agreed to support the strike call, he said, adding that the traders in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would also be on strike on Wednesday.

He added that the traders would lay a siege to the parliament if the government did not withdraw the tax.

Khalid Pervez of his own faction of the APAT told reporters that the strike would be observed from Karachi to Khyber. “The traders are still peaceful but the APAT will not be responsible in case some of them resorted to violence in future,” he said.

Mr Pervez said he had written a letter to the army chief, requesting Gen Raheel Sharif to intervene in the matter and arrest the corrupt elements in the government.

In a statement, LCCI President Ijaz A. Mumtaz said his association had decided to support the strike call.

He urged the government to withdraw the tax because the officials didn’t have “authentic data to differentiate between the filers and non-filers of income tax returns”.

Earlier, the APAT group led by Naeem Mir had called a strike on August 1 and their rival faction, the Khalid Pervez group, on August 5 but the strikes failed to achieve the desired results. Now, however, the two groups have joined hands in an effort to force a withdrawal of the tax.

Meanwhile, an official of the finance ministry described the strike call as “an uncalled for move” and said: “Why can’t they become filers of income tax returns? The traders themselves had agreed to this condition,” he said.

Manufacturers and industrialists have remained aloof from the local politics of the business community and a spokesman for the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) said in Islamabad that an agreement had already been reached between the business community and the finance ministry over the matter.

“The agreement was signed in July when the traders had agreed that the withholding tax would be reduced to 0.3 per cent and they would avail themselves of the three-month window to file income tax returns,” FPCCI spokesman Malik Sohail said.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2015

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