Saturday was supposed to be marked by a massive shutter down strike across the country but factions within the traders’ community have split, leaving the fate of the protest uncertain.
In Karachi, one group has said it will proceed with the strike and shut down its businesses but another says it won’t be participating at all and will keep its shops and businesses open.
The Tajir Action Committee is against the protest and will be proceeding as usual while the Markazi Tanzeem Tajiran has announced that it will shut down its businesses. The All City Tajir Ittehad disassociated itself from the protest earlier.
The traders say they want the government to remove the new condition that traders must present their CNICs for purchases over Rs50,000. The protesting traders want to keep the government deadlock going because they want to pressure the government into accepting their demands.
Kashif Chaudhry, president of the Markazi Tanzeem Tajiran, said that their main issue is the CNIC condition.
But during a press conference on Friday, FBR Chairperson Shabbar Zaidi said the CNIC condition is part of a larger drive against tax evasion because the government is running a massive budget deficit (more than Rs3000 billion) because of a low tax revenue.
There are about 381,000 trading units that fall under sales tax jurisdiction, but only 47,000 of them are registered. Worse still, of the registered trading businesses, only 17,000 pay sales tax to the government. The government wants to change that equation by bringing more traders under the tax net.
Zaidi said there is no deadlock with any group or association of traders or industrialists but there is resistance because people don’t want to come under the tax net. He, however, added they will consider suggestions from traders while finalizing the policy.
Governor Imran Ismail says most traders aren’t protesting. We will solve this issue through dialogue, he said, expressing his hope that the protesting traders take back their decision to go on strike.