Public markets across Pakistan stayed closed due to a strike by retail associations over rising electricity prices and brisk inflation, as the country embarks on a tricky path to economic recovery.
In recent weeks, the economic conditions in Pakistan are getting worse day by day and people are getting fed up with this situation.
Pakistani businessmen struck to criticize the increase in fuel prices, water and electricity and the unprecedented decrease in the value of the Rupee against the dollar and other currencies, and this situation has also led to widespread dissatisfaction among the people.
A $3 billion loan programme, approved by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in July, averted a sovereign debt default in Pakistan but reforms linked to the bailout have fuelled annual inflation running at 27.4%, Reuters reported.
“Today, traders are observing a shutter-down strike across Pakistan against the overcharging electricity tariff and unjustified taxes,” Ashraf Bhatti, president of the All Pakistan Traders Association, told Reuters.
Major markets in Lahore and Karachi, Pakistan’s two largest cities, remained shut on the last day though grocery shops in populated neighbourhoods and medical stores stayed open.
In the southwestern city of Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, public markets were shuttered all day for the protest, which was called by Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamist opposition party and joined by traders’ groups.
Jamal Uddin, a shopkeeper who was participating in a protest rally in Dera Ghazi Khan, said he and other traders were keeping their businesses shut in protest because it simply wasn’t possible anymore for them to feed their families.
“We are protesting against the unprecedented increase in the electricity tariff. This is forcing people to commit suicide. Record inflation is compelling people to sell their household items to survive.”
Ashraf another protester said: “We have repeatedly asked the government to give us relief, but the current government is not listening. Either they don’t know anything or they are deliberately doing this.
“It is a matter of the entire country as the common man is being badly affected,” said Abdul Rahim Kakar, leader of a traders’ association of Balochistan.
Moreover, Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar, the acting Prime Minister of Pakistan, downplayed these protests and called people’s complaints trivial. He said: “We have thoroughly examined the electricity tariff of the last two months, Pakistani Interim Prime Minister. We are in negotiations with multilateral financial institutions on this.”
Worsening economic conditions, along with rising political tension ahead of a national election scheduled for November in Pakistan, have triggered sporadic protests in recent weeks.Follow TKG on Twitter & Facebook