Rawalpindi - Druggists and chemists on Monday observed shutter down strike against The Punjab Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2017.

The protesters also set up a camp at Bohr Bazaar, hub of wholesale drug stores in the city. The strike was observed on the call of Pharma Trade Joint Action Committee, based in Lahore.

The strike created problems for patients in the hospitals as many operations were postponed due to non-availability of medicines. Similarly, the general public could also be witnessed running here and there in search of medicines across the city. Patients from allied hospitals, Benazir Bhutto Hospital, District Headquarters Hospital and Holy Family Hospital, as well as the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) and the Military Hospital (MH) faced hardships in getting medicines.

“Punjab government is bent on economic murder of druggists and chemists by introducing the bill in the provincial assembly,” said Dr Zakriya Qureshi while talking to The Nation at the protest camp at Bohr Bazaar.

He said that representatives of associations of druggists and chemists had held talks with provincial ministers Rana Sana Ullah, Imran Nazir, Khawaja Salman Rafique and Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman who had promised for arranging a meeting between their representatives and CM Punjab Mian Shehbaz Sharif to sort out the matter.

“Now none of the ministers is responding to our representatives, which shows that they are not serious in resolving the problems being faced by the chemists, druggists and pharmaceutical manufactures,” he said. He said that they were observing shutter down strike for one day but would come on roads and expand their protest if the Punjab government remained silent over the issue.

“We will chalk out our next course of action in a day or two,” said Dr Zakriya, who is media manager of the Pharma Trade Joint Action Committee.

He said that their protest would continue against cancellation of drug sales’ licenses, ban on issuance of new drug sales’ licences, imposition of Schedule G over medical stores, wholesale dealers and distributors as well as abolition of dispenser drug sales’ licenses under The Punjab Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2017.

He said that the suspension of dispenser and self-qualified sales’ licenses would result in economic murder of tens of thousands of people associated with this business in Punjab. Similarly, he alleged that the imposition of Schedule G would shrink the business to some specific families in Punjab.

“We also reject approval of the bill by the provincial cabinet,” he said, stressing the government to avoid ruining their businesses by passing such black laws. Otherwise, he warned that the chemists, druggists and pharmaceutical manufacturers would take to the streets to protest against the Punjab government.

The people had to face severe difficulties in purchasing medicines. “I am worried because of closure of medical stores as I need to purchase medicines for my ailing mother,” said Ahmed Zia. He said that he had travelled from Saddar to Faizabad in search of medicines but in vein as medical stores and pharmacies were closed everywhere. “CM and his cabinet should sit together with pharmacists to find out suitable solution of problems,” he said.

Asifa Bibi, a House wife, said that she visited a doctor in a private clinic for examining her throat. “The doctor advised me some medicines but all the medical stores are closed,” she added.