Main markets, bazaars remain closed in major cities including Lahore, Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Multan n Protesters block several roads, highways by setting tyres on fire n Transgender people surround Islamabad Electric Supply Company offices in Rawalpindi.
KARACHI/LAHORE/RAWALPINDI/PESHAWAR/QUETTA - Shocked by inflated electricity bills, traders and shopkeepers observed shutter-down strike across the country including Lahore, Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Multan and Gujranwala on Saturday, demanding the government to immediately announce relief for the inflation hit people.
The shutter-down strike was observed by traders in parts of the country and different religious and political parties also supported the strike call. The strike was part of the protest campaign launched last month against inflated bills and huge taxes. Angry protesters took to the streets in recent days against unbearable price hikes and inflated bills.
Jamaat-i-Islami has also called on traders and citizens to participate in Saturday’s strike in Karachi in protest against the escalating inflation.
In Lahore, the business activities remained suspended as main markets including Liberty Market, Hafeez centre, MM Alam Road, Jail Road, Anarkali bazaar, The Mall, Hall Road, Abid Market and other commercial centers were seen closed throughout the day. The flow of the traffic also remained very thin on the city roads as there was less activity due to shutter down strike. The Punjab Bar Council also observed strike against inflation. The lawyers’ community also responded to the protest call as they boycotted the court proceedings in protest against surging inflation in the country.
On the other hand on the call of Jamaat-e-Islami, there was a shutter down strike in many cities across the province including Lahore. Important arteries of the province were blocked by the protestors causing traffic congestion on highways.
The strike call against high electricity bills and inflation from trader’s Union, Jamat Islami and lawyers evoked a great response from the massed as the major markets and commercial centers remained closed in Lahore. According to reports, protests were also staged in Faisalabad against high electricity bills. Shops and markets remained closed in many cities of Punjab including Gujranwala, Multan, Jhang, Shakrgarh, Jahania, Sialkot, Faisalabad and Jhelum.
Amir Jamaat-e-Islami Sirajul Haq while addressing the protestors in Lahore demanded a relief package in electricity bills from the caretaker government.
Addressing the protestors on Mall Road in Lahore, Sirajul Haq said that the government should give relief on electricity bills by midnight and the government does not give relief to the masses by the end of the deadline then he will give the next action plan to the people on Sunday in Mansoora.
Addressing the Caretaker Prime Minister, Sirajul Haq mockingly asked the PM “is he the Caretaker Prime Minister of Pakistan or the IMF?” He said, “The prime minister said that the electricity bills have not increased enough to call for a strike. We do not believe that these rulers will have to withdraw the increase in electricity prices.”
In Karachi, citizens protested against inflation in Shah Latif Town, blocking the flow of traffic on the National Highway. The lawyers of the district bar in Faisalabad announced a strike, too, with protests in the city recorded by citizens at Canal Road and Digikot demanding abolishing taxes by burning tires and blocking the road for traffic.
Transgender people in Rawalpindi surrounded the Islamabad Electric Supply Company (IESCO) office, holding banners and placards, and demanding the government to immediately roll back the hike in petrol and electricity prices. In Mandi Bahauddin, traders observed a shutter-down strike against an increase in electricity bills, and all small and major markets as well as commercial centers in the city remained closed.
The All Pakistan Traders Community did a strike in Peshawar with most markets and centers shut. Food outlets and medical stores, however, remained open in the city. Traders in Arifwala announced a shutter-down with trade organisations supporting and announcing to keep shops and businesses closed across the city. In Chichawatni, the strike was also supported by lawyers due to which people showing up to attend hearings have remained affected too. Shops are also closed in Kasowal, Iqbal Nagar and Ghaziabad.
There was a complete strike in different cities across Sindh with all business centers and petrol pumps in Thatta, Gharo, Makli, Dhabeji and other cities shut down, while the traffic on the roads is less than normal.
Caretaker Sindh Chief Minister, retired Justice Maqbool Baqar, acknowledged the challenges faced by the citizens and affirmed that staging a protest was a fundamental democratic right. In a statement, the chief minister noted that those participating in the protest should also be mindful of not causing inconvenience to fellow citizens. He further pointed out that both the federal and provincial governments were actively working to alleviate the burden of the public.
Meanwhile, in the Malakand and Hazara divisions, traders and transporters called for a closure of markets and a freeze in transport in protest against the mounting electricity bills.
Throughout the morning, traders have closed their businesses in multiple locations, including Shangla, Bisham, Alpuri, Puran, Swat, Mingora, Khwazakhela, Barikot, Dir Timergara, Warai, as well as in Malakand, Butkhela, and Dargai. The strike has also affected parts of Hazara division, Kohistan, Battagram, Mansehra, Abbottabad, Haripur, and other regions, where traders have shuttered their shops and transporters have parked their vehicles.
Shujat Ali, President of the Shangla trade union, lamented that their businesses had been continuously harmed by rulers in all eras. He expressed frustration over promises made to international organisations like the IMF, claiming that such commitments were now endangering the lives of impoverished individuals who were driven to the brink of suicide.