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PESHAWAR: Likewise other parts of the country, traders’ communities in different parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Saturday observed a complete shutter-down strike against inflation and excessive electricity bills.

The protest call was given by several traders’ bodies and Jamaat-e-Islami. All bazaars, shopping plazas and markets and business hubs/centres in different parts of the province remained completely closed.

Banners and placards were hoisted on main chowks, squares corners and bazaars, citing slogans against rising price-hike and inflated electricity bills. Traders and activists of various political parties’ stage protest demonstrations and blocked main roads.

Rising inflation and inflated bills: Partial ‘shutter-down’ strike in Peshawar

Despite business closures in various parts of KP, the response in Peshawar appeared to be mixed. While some shops remained closed, others choose to keep their businesses open.

During a visit by this scribe to various markets and bazaars in the city, it was noted that over half of the market was operational, with only a handful of shops closed.

Similarly, different political parties and traders staged demonstrations against price hike in Takht Bhai, district Mardan. The protestors blocked roads, set electricity bills on fire, and closed all small and large shopping centers. They shouted slogans against the Wapda as well as the government.

Addressing the protestors, the speakers hit out at the government, saying the nation had landed in great trouble due to its flawed economic policies. They alleged that in an effort to please the IMF, the government was bent upon destroying the country.

In the Malakand and Hazara divisions, traders and transporters called for a closure of markets and a freeze in transport in protest against the mounting electricity bills.

Throughout the morning, traders have closed their businesses in multiple locations, including Shangla, Bisham, Alpuri, Puran, Swat, Mingora, Khwazakhela, Barikot, Dir Timergara, Warai, as well as in Malakand, Batkhela, and Dargai.

The strike has also affected parts of Hazara division, Kohistan, Battagram, Mansehra, Abbottabad, Haripur, and other regions, where traders have shuttered their shops and transporters have parked their vehicles.

A leader of a trade union, while talking expressed dismay that their businesses had been continuously harmed by rulers in all eras. He lamented frustration over promises made to international organisations like the IMF, claiming that such commitments were now endangering the lives of impoverished individuals who were driven to the brink of suicide.

They had no choice but to close down markets across the district because they could no longer afford electricity bills and even basic necessities for their families, he explained.

Transporters said that the government’s actions had left them with no alternative but to go on strike. The transporters emphasised that it was time to compel the government to show compassion for the struggling masses, as people had exhausted their resources, and sold their family valuables, leaving them with nothing but despair and thoughts of self-harm.

The JI also shared pictures of closed shops in the Upper Dir district of the Malakand division and Hazara region’s Abbottabad district. Meanwhile, the main market along the Karakoram Highway in KP’s Battagram wore a deserted look as it remained shut in response to the call by the JI.

JI leader Anwar Baig while speaking to the media stressed the need to set aside political affiliations and unite in these challenging times.

Traders highlighted that numerous traders had suffered significant losses due to inflation. Each morning brought new taxes and fluctuating rates, leaving them in a state of confusion regarding the viability of their businesses, he added.

The business community emphasised the urgency for the government to implement corrective measures to bolster the economy.

“The continuous depreciation of the Pakistani currency against the dollar had eroded the purchasing power of traders, causing local consumers to bear the brunt of inflation.”

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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