Islamabad/rawalpindi - Traders in twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi observed strike on Saturday against the withholding tax on the banking transactions.

Most of the shops in Islamabad’s famous markets like Aabpara, Melody, Super Market, Jinnah Super Market, Karachi Company, Peshawar Morr, F-10 and G-10 remained closed to register protest against the 0.3 percent withholding tax on the banking transactions. However, a few of the shops in the markets remained opened.

“More than 90 percent of the shops were closed. A few of the shops remained open and they were mainly hotels, restaurants, food outlets, and pharmaceutical stores,” said President Anjuman-e-Tijaran Ajmal Baloch while talking to The Nation. He further said that traders have registered their protest against the withholding tax on banking transactions.

“We will devise new strategy with consensus against the government’s decision of imposing withholding tax on the banking transactions after observing one-day strike. We have many other plans like coming out to the streets, observing many days strike and others if the government does not withdraw its decision,” Ajmal Baloch said.

He made it clear that traders would not accept the withholding tax on banking transactions at any cost. “This is not the tax, it is dacoity, which is not acceptable to us,” he added.

It should be noted here that the withholding tax of 0.6 percent was announced in the budget 2015-16 on banking transactions of more than Rs 50,000 for the non-filers of income tax. After hectic negotiations with some traders, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar reduced the tax rate to 0.3 percent that would remain applicable till 30th September this year.

“The economic situation of the country demands that the government should take all stakeholders including business community on board for making decisions that would help resolve the key issues of the economy and pave way for smooth economic development of the country,” observed Muhammad Ashfaq Hussain Chatha, Acting President Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry, while addressing a delegation of businessmen. He said the whole business community of the country was protesting against the imposition of withholding tax on banking transactions. He said it was high time that the government should come forward and address the concerns of business community on this matter and other critical issues of economic importance.

The Acting President ICCI said that business community was not against payment of taxes; however, it only wanted that the government should do proper consultation with businessmen and take them fully on board before considering any policy decision.

The delegation expressed great concern over the imposition of withholding tax on banking transactions as it would create many problems for businessmen, discourage new investment and promote cash transactions that would not be in the larger interest of the economy. They called upon the government to immediately withdraw this tax to save the trade and industry and the overall economy from further disturbances.

Meanwhile, the traders in Rawalpindi observed complete shutter down strike against the withholding tax on bank transactions. The traders on call of Markazi Anjuman-e-Tajran observed the strike.

All the shopping malls, plazas and markets remained closed in areas of Raja Bazaar, City Saddar Road, Gawalmandi, Gunjmandi, Sooter Mandi, Asghar Mall Scheme, Dingi Khoee, Said Pur Road, IJP Road, Peshawar Road, Pirwadhai, Commercial Market, China Market, Moti Bazaar, Murree Road, Sadiqabad, Faizabad, Double Road, Shamasabad, Saddar, Bank Road, Kashmir Road, Adam Jee Road, Haider Road, Cannon Road, Railway Road, Police Station Road, Morgah and Adiala Road.

However, hotels, bakeries and medical stores on Cantonment Road, Chungi Number 22, Tench Bhatta, Dhoke Syedan, Baraf Khana Chowk, Dhamial Road, Chakri Road and in some other areas remained open. The shoppers faced difficulties the whole day.

The traffic also remained off the road causing troubles for commuters. A huge rush was witnessed on all metro bus stations, while the cab and rickshaw drivers fleeced the commuters due to absence of public transport.

A clash occurred between two traders’ groups in Raja Bazaar on the issue of non-closure of Jeddah Market. The members of both groups scuffled with each other and chanted slogans. A heavy contingent of police also rushed to the scene to maintain law and order.