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LAHORE: Rejecting the recommendation of National Command Operation Centre (NCOC) for closure of markets and bazaars at 6:00 pm amid rising number of Covid-19 cases across the country, the All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajran (APAT) has denounced the plan warning the government that it will be facing strong resistance from traders across the country if it implements any such decision.

“We can ensure compliance of the Covid-19 SOPs at our shops or business places but we cannot create awareness among the people regarding repercussions in case of violation of the issued health guidelines as it is the job of the government,” said APAT Central President Ajmal Baloch while addressing a press conference at a hotel here on Thursday. All the senior leadership of the APAT from across the country participated and spoke on the occasion.

He said they have received reports that following rising coronavirus cases in the country, the NCOC has recommended the federal government to close down all markets and bazaars at 6:00pm besides complete closure of marriage halls after Nov 20 and educational institutes for at least two months.

“It is very unfortunate that at the one side the NCOC is recommending closure of businesses while on the other side the government and opposition parties are holding mass public gatherings and the people participating there were hardly seen wearing face masks or using hand sanitizers,” the APAT president regretted.

He said that limiting timings of businesses would significantly increase rush in markets and bazaars, adding that traders were already upset by pre-Covid-19 wave and now they are not in a position to face any smart-lockdown-like situation again. “Would coronavirus disappear after 6:00pm?” he asked and urged the government to sit with relevant stakeholders and devise a business policy with consensus.

APAT Central General Secretary Naeem Mir said if the government cannot provide jobs then it has no right to deprive the people of their livelihoods by imposing lockdowns. He was of the view that the government is taking political and monetary advantages under the guise of coronavirus.

About the monetary advantages, Mir said the government is taking grants from international financial institutions for providing relief to the affected people. But it is not giving the due share of relevant people (traders), he alleged.

“When the opposition parties take to the streets, Prime Minister Imran Khan instead of resolving core issues also starts holding rallies or public gatherings,” he said and questioned why small traders would face the brunt of policies of inept lawmakers, who could not stabalise the economy despite the passage of two-and-a-half year of the PTI.

“The traders from across the country have unanimously decided to give a befitting response to the government if the decision of closure of markets at 6:00pm is implemented. We are not afraid of lodging of FIRs or detentions, we will take this incompetent government to task,” he added.

The general secretary continued that the profiteering mafias, who are sitting besides the prime minister, took every possible advantage during the pre-coronavirus wave which is evident from recent inquiry reports on sugar and wheat flour scams. “In order to protect such mafias, the government imposes fines on small traders and loges FIRs against them just to show things going well,” he claimed.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan Sahib when you give us examples of developed countries like the United Sates do you know that such countries are paying 80 percent salaries of their people who are working from homes. What benefits you are providing to us except U-turns?” he asked. “We are taxpayers and we want to know where you (PM Imran) spent the foreign aid meant for Covid-19 relief.” APAT’s provincial and district bodies office-bearers were also present and spoke on the occasion.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020

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