LAHORE: Traders have threatened to launch a countrywide agitation from the platform of the Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry against the government if Section 203-A of the recently passed Finance Act 2021-22 is not withdrawn that empowers the concerned assistant commissioners to inspect businesses of traders without any prior notice and put them behind bars on "suspicion" after registration of First Information Reports (FIRs).
"Among issues, we utterly reject Section 203-A of the Finance Act in which the assistant commissioners have been empowered to inspect our businesses and put traders behind bars merely on suspicion," said FPCCI Senior Vice-President Khuwaja Shahzaib Akram while addressing a press conference at the Lahore Press Club (LPC) on Thursday.
FPCCI Regional Chairman Chaudhry Aslam Muhammad Saleem Bhallar, Chairman Coordination Muhammad Ali Mian, former Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) President Irfan Iqbal Sheikh and Pakistan Industrial and Traders Associations Front (PIAF) Chairman Mian Nauman Kabeer were also present on the occasion. They also chanted slogan "give respect to traders: anti-traders laws rejected".
Lambasting the PTI government, Khuwaja Shahzaib deplored that they had held meetings with Prime Minister Imran Khan before the passage of the federal and provincial budgets and the latter had assured them of providing a "real-time" relief to them. However, when the government unveiled its budgets, everything was against what it had promised, he added. "It seems that the bureaucracy has won."
He said section 203-A is actually "section-302" (of the PPC) for trader, adding that instead of giving any target to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), the government has made it compulsory for the distributers to collect advance taxes from pharmacies. "Is it the responsibility of the distributers?"
He regretted that before the passage of the budgets, the government had announced that no increase in the tariffs of electricity and gas would be made but things turned out totally otherwise when the budgets were passed. "This government has done everything that seriously affected the people, particularly the common man," he observed.
According to Shahzaib, nowhere in the world sugar and tea are taxed under third schedule but this government has taxed these commodities as well. He further demanded that advance tax imposed on pharmacies under 236-G and 236-H of the income tax laws must be abolished immediately.
About the shutdown of gas to industries, the FPCCI SVP said that due to untimely action of the government regarding LNG and CNG, industries are facing a shortage of the gas today. He regretted that increase in the electricity and gas tariffs will result in the increase of cost of doing business which will largely affect the businessmen and the people.
To a query, the SVP pledged that the FPCCI will not step-back from its stance until all the chambers and bodies of traders are not "satisfied". He added that the government on the dictation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is ruining lives of traders and the people.
FPCCI Chairman Coordination Muhammad Ali Mian said that speculations are being made from some "corners" labeling the FPCCI with some political parties to make their whole effort for the business community controversial. "I can assure you that this body is totally non-political and our reservations are not related to five million homes (for the poor) and 10 million jobs for the youth," he said, referring to the promises of the premier.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021