KARACHI: In a temporary agreement till Tuesday, shops will stay open till 9pm instead of 8pm in Karachi.
A round of negotiations was held Saturday at the Chief Minister House with prominent business leaders who presented their case. The Sindh government agreed that they could stay open till 9pm but would switch off their air conditioners by 8pm. A final decision will be made by the government on Tuesday after Sindh’s officials seek permission from the president and prime minister.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Abdul Majeed Haji Mohammad, who is the president of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that as Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah was not at the meeting no final decision could be made. Government representatives were of the opinion that since the policy was made in Islamabad, the president and prime minister needed to approve any changes. “They have assured us that the police and officials of the Labour Department will not take action against any traders till Tuesday,” he said.
Present at the meeting were Siraj Qasim Taili of the Businessmen Group (BMG), Abdul Majeed Haji Mohammed of the KCCI, Majeed Memon of the Small Traders Association and Siddique Memon of the Karachi Traders Action Committee. Agha Siraj Durrani, Shazia Mari, Ameer Nawab, Zubair Motivala, Taj Haider and Sardar Ahmed were from the government. Durrani said that they had assured traders that there would be no power outages if they implemented the decision. He pointed out that Punjab’s government has agreed to close shops, so why can’t traders in Sindh also think along these lines. He said that traders agreed to switch off their billboards and hoarding lights.
In a city of 65,000 shops, it is not a surprise that the traders have decided to fight the government that wants them closed at 8 pm to save electricity. A group of them submitted a petition against the government order to the Sindh High Court on Saturday. Siddique Memon, chairman of the Karachi Traders Action Committee, promised bitter opposition to the government’s decision, which could even turn violent unless the government changes its conservation policy. “This decision will cost us a loss of Rs3.5 billion every day,” he explained. A shopkeeper at Dolmen Centre on Tariq Road, Abrar Hussain, said that 90 per cent of their business takes place from 7 pm to 10 pm, adding that this decision would especially cripple those shopkeepers whose shops are on rent, which is around 60 per cent of the total.
On the other end of the battlefield, the Sindh government has instructed the police to ensure that all shops and markets are closed at 8 pm. Section 144 has been imposed on the lighting of billboards after the clock strikes eight. However, the rule has yet to be implemented as the second day passed by with usual activity in most markets. According to Memon, the lights-out policy will also force them to sack around 35,000 employees. The traders’ lawyer, Akhtar Hussain Channar, has submitted the petition but it has not been filed yet. Memon hoped that it would be filed by Monday and that they would get a stay order.
“The Karachi chamber of commerce and industry is our representative body and they have assured us that they will fight for our rights during their meetings with the governor,” he added. Police officials have said that all the DIGs have ordered their Town Police Officers (TPOs) to form teams to implement the federal decision under the West Pakistan Shops and Establishment Ordinance 1969. Talking to The Express Tribune, Saddar TPO Irshad Seehar said that they had received their orders from high ups in the command chain.
They have to enforce the decision from Monday but negotiations between traders and the government were still going on. “Initially we will ask the traders on loudspeakers to shut their business, if they do not obey our orders then action will be taken against them as per law,” he said.