A majority of traders and businessmen, rejecting the PDM government’s energy conservation plan, pledged not to close markets by 8:30 pm and marriage halls by 10 pm.

The government had approved a new energy conservation plan to save the country around Rs62 billion annually. According to the plan, markets and marriage halls have to be closed down by 8:00 pm and 10:00 pm respectively. However, traders consider this decision harmful to their businesses.

All-Karachi Tajir Ittehad Chairman Atiq Mir said the government plan was not feasible. Closing shops early would inflict losses on poor traders and masses, who were barely managing to survive, while the “elite and rulers enjoyed all amenities”.

Calling out officials utilising government housing, he said the government residences and streets that house officials remain illuminated throughout the night, while traders were being asked to shut businesses early.

He warned retaliation “If the decision (to close shops early) was imposed by force.”

Markets already close at 9:00 pm in winter with the exception of malls, Mir said, adding that the decision to close markets at around 9:00 pm in winter and 10:00 pm in summer was not acceptable.

He urged the elite rulers to also sacrifice for the country’s sake and give up unnecessary and expensive foreign trips.

All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajiran Sindh spokesman Ismail Lalpuria also rejected the government’s “one-sided and unacceptable decision”, which was taken without consulting the stakeholders.

“Karachi provides 70 percent of revenue to the government, and its traders will not accept this decision, which was not going to benefit them,” Lalpuria said.

After the 18th Amendment, it was the right of the provincial government to decide about trade timings, but the federal government took the wrong decision, he said adding if traders were forced to close their businesses earlier, they will resist.

Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) President Irfan Iqbal Sheikh said that the Rs62 billion estimate did not look realistic.

He claimed that early closure of markets and marriage halls was unlikely to save such a large amount, and would rather harm businesses and trade activities.

“Major stores run double shifts to cater to their customers, and if these stores are closed earlier, they have to run only one shift, which will result in layoff of employees,” he said, adding that the economy was already in a bad shape and making people jobless would only add to the unemployment ratio.

Sheikh blamed line losses and power theft for the energy crisis.

Electronic Dealers Association President Rizwan Irfan also refused to accept the decision, unless the government compensated the traders for their losses caused by early closure.

Instead, he said that traders were ready to close the markets by 9 pm to 10 pm and marriage halls at around 12 midnight. “The government of Sindh was approached on the issue of market timings, and it had promised to convey our views to the federal government,” he added.

Marriage Halls Association President Rana Raees called the federal government’s energy conservation plan “non-serious”.

On the other hand, All Karachi Retail Grocers Association General Secretary Farid Qureshi said closing down shops by 6 pm was a worldwide practice.

Pakistan was passing through an energy crisis, so markets should be opened in the mornings and closed in the evenings. “Customers hardly come in late evenings. Only lights remain on, which is a waste of energy.”

Supporting the plan, he requested members of his association and other trade bodies to follow the government’s decision.

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