An All Parties Conference (APC) called by the Central Traders Association (Anjuman E Tajran) of Gilgit-Baltistan and attended by the top crop of the area’s opposition parties has declared a complete shutter down strike from October 25 onwards to protest the imposition of “undue taxes”.
According to details available with Pakistan Today, opposition parties including the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Islami Tehreek Pakistan (ITP), Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen (MWM), and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) have all joined hands with the GB’s main traders association to take on the GB government over taxation issues.
The APC had been called by the association on October 20 on the basis of new taxes that they described as “unconstitutional”.
Other than the opposition parties, the Awami Action Committee, Supreme Court Bar Association, High Court Bar Association, Hotel Association, Petroleum Dealers Association, Transport Association, Timber Association and Minerals and Gems Association also took part in the APC.
The trading community of the area was pitted against the GB council after the imposition of unprecedented “cleaning” taxes, as well as new levies on banking transfers and similar transactions vital to local traders and businessman.
Meanwhile, representatives of the GB council, while speaking to Pakistan Today, have denied all accusations by the trader’s association, saying that the new taxes are an overall phenomenon that will benefit the trading community in the long run.
At the same time, the president of the trader’s association, Muhammad Ibrahim, expressed the discontent and worry that traders were in over the imposition of the new taxes and the huge losses they had to face because of them.
“These ‘cleaning taxes’ and withholding taxes were choking the already impoverished traders and now they have introduced these new banking fees on transfers and transactions. How is the region supposed to flourish when the government won’t allow businesses to operate?” he questioned.
He went on to criticise the council, saying they had promised to discuss removing the old taxes with the prime minister, who is the chairman of the council, but instead they have introduced newer and more oppressive ones.
“It is unconstitutional to levy taxes on traders when no benefit is being derived from it by the local people, the traders and even the government” he fumed.
Meanwhile, the secretary general of the association, Masoodur Rehman, also threatened to carry out the implementation of the strike which would completely paralyse the local government.
“We will hold our strike from October 25. That is the time that the government has. If they do not, then it will start and will not end until they agree to our terms. We have the joint support of everyone now and will not back down.” he said.
At the same time, PTI’s GB Secretary General Fataullah Khan also announced that his party would hold a protest against the “unjust and unconstitutional taxes”, adding his party would support the people of the area through this difficult time.