Businessmen pay Rs120bn as price for three-day protests

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Policemen stand alert at a local market that had been shut down after the call for protests. (AN photo)
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Policemen stand alert at a local market that had been shut down after the call for protests. (AN photo)
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Policemen stand alert at a local market that had been shut down after the call for protests. (AN photo)
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Policemen stand alert at a local market that had been shut down after the call for protests. (AN photo)
Updated 04 November 2018

Businessmen pay Rs120bn as price for three-day protests

  • Pakistan’s industries and markets remained shut following protests against SC verdict
  • Country generates nearly Rs30-40bn revenue every day, traders say

KARACHI: Pakistan’s economy suffered a loss of Rs100 to Rs120 billion following the three-day countrywide protests called by religious parties rallying against the Supreme Court’s decision to acquit a Christian woman accused of blasphemy, traders and industrialists told Arab News on Saturday.
Life limped back to normalcy after an agreement was signed between the leaders of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a far-right political party, and the government ending 72 hours of violent demonstrations that had paralyzed business activities across the country.
“The country’s daily business activities are worth Rs30-40 billion, which means it lost that much amount everyday during the protests which paralyzed industrial activities for three days,” Muhammad Danish Khan, President of Korangi Association of Trade and Industry (KATI), which represents one of the largest industrial estates of Pakistan, told Arab News.
He added that Korangi industrial, which was forced to cease its activities for the past few days on account of the nationwide protests, is host to nearly 4,000 small and large industries, including a refinery, and contributes Rs400 million every day to the national exchequer.
Highlighting the impact of the ill-timed protests, especially with Prime Minister Imran Khan visiting China to secure financial assistance and investment, Syed Mazhar Ali Nasir, Senior Vice-President, Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), said: “The cost of the country’s image and the exports is much higher from the economic numbers, especially at a time when the country’s prime minister is in another country to secure financial assistance and investment.”
Though no official figures detailing the actual loss to the economy have been released, industrialists and traders estimate it to be in billions, with the port city of Karachi impacted the worst, sending disturbing signals to the rest of the country about its economic health.
“Nearly 85 to 92 percent of cross border trade, particularly exports of Pakistan, are transshipped from Karachi. Approximately Rs7 billion of exports are lost during a one-day strike in Karachi. Similarly Rs17 billion worth of imports are disturbed due to this reason,” the FPCCI said.
As the industrial activities came to a grinding halt three days ago, the trading community also suffered losses due to a lack of sales. “We estimated that during the last three days our trading community has suffered around Rs100 billion losses. Small shopkeepers were mostly impacted by the events,” Khalid Pervaiz, President of All Pakistan Traders’ Association, said, while Atiq Mir, Chairman of Karachi Tajir Itehad, added that traders “incurred losses worth Rs15 billion in Karachi alone”.
“More than three million daily wagers turn up every day in the markets to earn their livelihood, with means of their livelihood blocked by this kind of protests,” Mir said.
Pakistan’s Karachi Port Trust (KPT) handles an average of 80,000 tons of cargo per day. “The shipping activities at the harbor during the protests remained normal but due to the non-availability of transport, movement of export and import goods remained suspended,” Shariq Amin, spokesman of KPT, said.  
Pakistan’s industrialists and traders called for a comprehensive policy to tackle sensitive issues and violent protests. “Businessmen are the first victims of such violent actions. In such conditions who will place order from outside of Pakistan,” Nasir questioned.
“It is the responsibility of the state to stop violence and protect the life and properties of citizens,” Pervaiz said, adding that the government should take the business community into confidence and consult with them “because it’s the economy which guarantees the security and existence of the state”.
“All sensitive issues concerning politics and religion must be resolved at the table rather than on streets,” Nasir said, reasoning that negotiations should be the first and violence could be the last option. “Unfortunately in Pakistan, the last option is exercised in the first place,” he added.0

Sindh cabinet approves bill to restore student unions

Updated 10 December 2019

Sindh cabinet approves bill to restore student unions

  • Document will now be tabled in the provincial assembly for approval
  • Student representatives call it a huge victory, urge earliest implementation

KARACHI: The government in Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh lifted a 35-year-old ban on student unions on Monday by approving a bill for the restoration of the same which representatives termed as a huge victory.

Murtaza Wahab, Sindh government’s spokesperson, said that the bill will be presented before the provincial assembly during the ongoing session.

“Sindh cabinet has approved the draft bill for restoration and regulation of student unions in the province. Bill will be laid before the Sindh Assembly in the ongoing session,” Wahab tweeted on Monday.

“The cabinet has made some changes to the draft. When it will go to the assembly there will be more changes. The standing committee will also consult different stakeholders before giving it a final shape,” Information Minister Saeed Ghani told Arab News, adding that the bill has been drafted keeping in mind the guidelines provided by the Supreme Court’s in 1993.

“The union can be a seven to 11 member body. Both government and private educational institutions will be bound to hold elections of the unions,” Ghani said.

The student unions were banned by military dictator Gen Zia-ul-Haq on February 9, 1984 and briefly revived by former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1989 but blocked once again by the Supreme Court in 1993 before any elections could be held.

In 2008, former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had given his approval for the elections but none could be held throughout his tenure.

Student representatives welcomed the development on Monday.

Ammar Rashid, who was at the forefront of the Students Solidarity March, said due credit goes to the marchers.

“This is a huge victory for Pakistan and its people,” Rashid told Arab News.

Ashir Saleem, leader of Islami Jamiat Talaba, said that his organization welcomed the development.

“The Sindh government has taken a highly-needed step, which should have been taken since long,” Saleem told Arab News, adding that his organization had been protesting every year on February 9 since the ban was initiated in 1984.

A former union president, however, added a caveat.

“I doubt the intentions of the government. When you take a really good step but without preparations, you want to fail it,” Professor Shakeel Farooqi, president of the last student union in Karachi University in 1984, told Arab News.

“I have serious reservations.”

Farooqi said when universities were established in Pakistan it was ensured that these institutions must be based on the principle of democracy.

“There were not only student unions, student councils and departmental student societies but the dean of faculty would also be elected,” Farooqi, who has also served as President of the Karachi University Teachers’ Society (KUTS), said, adding that thee first dent in the university’s democratic culture was made by former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who put an end to the elections of the Dean’s office and the final blow came from General Zia-ul-Haq banned the unions in 1984.

“The political parties, whether the left’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) or the right’s Jamaat-e-Islami, didn’t support us although the students struggled for their right irrespective of their backgrounds. Both the leftists and rightists jointly struggled,” Farooqi said, adding that the ban has affected nine generations in the past 35 years.

“There is a dearth of leadership today and the intolerant behavior we see in parliament and on TV talk shows is the reflection of the loss due to ban on student unions,” Farooqi said, adding that “unions create leadership.”

Rashid, for his part, urged the Sindh government to take into account the students’ feedback before passing the bill into law.

“Sindh government has taken the lead and I am hopeful that others will follow. If other provinces don’t restore unions, the students would go to the courts for taking their due right,” he said.