Islamabad/Karachi: Pakistani traders and top opposition political parties are protesting separately against Prime Minister Imran Khan’s move to raise taxes, including by monitoring some transactions.
Traders and retailers closed shops and businesses nationwide on Tuesday, as part of the two-day strike, after talks with the federal authority over tax measures failed, local television channels reported. All businesses in port city of Karachi to industrial city of Faisalabad in central Punjab province were closed, they said. Owais Khan, a retailer in Karachi’s Light House market, said his daily sales have dwindled to 8,000 rupees ($51) from 45,000 rupees.
“While the rising inflation has already hurt our businesses, this new tax regime is worsening things for us,” Khan said.
The International Monetary Fund, which earlier this year approved a $6 billion loan to help the economy avert a balance-of-payments crisis, is currently reviewing the progress of the program. The bailout is expected to require Pakistan to boost tax revenue, raise interest rates and weaken the rupee, among other measures.
“The traders reject the government’s IMF-backed economic policies,” according to a statement by Kashif Chaudhry, the president of the Markazi Tanzeem-e-Tajran Pakistan, a group that represents more than 5,000 unions of traders, adding that the shutdown may be extended for another day if the traders’ demands weren’t met.
The talks failed after the traders rejected a move by the Federal Board of Revenue to monitor purchases by requiring businesses to obtain a copy of the national registration cards from buyers for transactions of more than 50,000 rupees, Naeem Mir, the central secretary general All-Pakistan Anjuman Tajran, said on phone.
Prime Minister Khan said on Monday his government was talking to the traders on imposing a fixed tax. “The traders have to understand the country cannot be run without taxes,” he said.
Meanwhile, Fazl-ur-Rehman, a right-wing cleric, is planning to lead a rally by a group of nine political parties in Islamabad on Oct. 31 to protest what he called the failure of Khan’s government to handle the economy.
The premier has also rejected the demand of the opposition parties that he resign, saying their protest plan was aimed at disrupting the government’s economic revival program. The opposition group including the two largest political parties — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz of former three-times prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan Peoples Party of former President Asif Ali Zardari — have alleged that the July 2018 elections that brought Khan to power were rigged.
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