Unpaid dues: Aabpara traders square off against Tehreek-e-Insaf

Protesters demand justice as party decries ‘government injustice’

Protesters demand justice as party decries ‘government injustice’ PHOTO: EXPRESS


Traders of Aabpara market took to the streets on Saturday afternoon to square off against a gathering of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

A total of six traders from Aabpara market, lead by Chaudhry Ishtiaq, claim the party owes them a collective sum of Rs4.6 million.

Six months have passed since the traders first lodged their protest against the party in the same location. The traders claim, as they did back in July 2015, that the party owes them unpaid dues for seating, furniture and tents during PTI’s protest sit-ins in the capital in 2014.

Last year, the protesting traders told The Express Tribune that they would make daily visits to the home of PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s in the capital’s posh Bani Gala suburb to demand payment. Ishtiaq says he has been camped outside the chairman’s house for the last 62 days.

“It helps keep my creditors at bay when they see me in a tent in Bani Gala demanding payment,” he said. Ishtiaq says he blocks the chairman’s cavalcade whenever he can, and that despite multiple assurances given to him by Khan, the payments have yet to materialise.

The trader claims Khan instructed PTI spokesperson Naeemul Haq to clear the outstanding dues several times. Further, he claims senior PTI members engaged him for various needs during the protests, which he later sourced through the five other traders in Aabpara.

“I had to sell off my wife’s jewellery to pay some creditors,” he added.

Other traders from Aabpara were also present at the counter-protest to support Ishtiaq. In between slogans by PTI protesters demanding justice (insaf), the traders would raise counter-slogans such as, “Give us our rights” and “We will not let this injustice stand”. Their lamentations echoed, and were perhaps mean to mimic, what the party itself bemoans the sitting government for.

Raja Yasir Sarfraz, a PTI member from Chakwal, told The Express Tribune that the protesting traders needed to specify who within the party had contracted the traders. Sarfraz claims each party member had personally dealt with payments for services they had commissioned for the party.

To this, Ishtiaq claims he was personally engaged by PTI members for their needs during the sit-ins, and that he has been in touch with party members such as Saifullah Niazi, Naeemul Haq, Aun Chaudry, Shoaib Siddiqui and Aamir Mughal for the payments.

Ishtiaq said he will continue to camp outside the PTI chairman’s home till his dues are paid.

PTI protest

The protest was originally announced by the PTI to coincide with demonstrations held in other major cities. Led by PTI Central Organiser Saifullah Nyazee, the gathering lamented the government’s spending priorities on projects such as the Orange Line train service in Lahore.

The PTI procession, which was unable to gather a large crowd, presumably due to the absence of senior party members, dispersed close to sundown. They were followed by a procession of the protesting traders, who continued raising slogans at their heels.

Poor track record

On July 6, 2015, Muhammad Asif aka DJ Butt, the entertainer who provided sonic support to the party during their sit-ins, claimed PTI owed him a staggering Rs80 million in unpaid dues. Butt, who had worked with the party since 2010, said his total invoice of Rs140 million was met with a payment of just Rs60 million. After a legal battle, the entertainer was given a check for Rs2.5 million on July 24, 2015 as final payment, after which both sides decided to bury the hatchet.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2016.


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