Islamabad - Local traders on Saturday stressed the government to urgently promulgate a ‘balanced’ rent control act in the federal capital.

“Traders will go on strike if the government did not pass the rent control act from the Parliament”, said Ajmal Baloch, president of Markazi Anjuman-e-Tijran Pakistan, in a press conference.

Baloch was flanked by Muhammad Naveed, senior vice president of Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Kashif Chaudhry of Tajir Ittehad, Khalid Chaudhry, secretary of Traders’ Action Committee and others.

Traders in the federal capital have since long been demanding introduction of a proper tenancy law, particularly in business centres. During the previous PPP regime, the then minister for law Babar Awan took steps to resolve the issue, but the problem had not been fully addressed.

They said that the traders were feeling insecure due to absence of a balanced rent control act in Islamabad. They said that when a trader starts his or her business, the owner signs a two-year rent agreement with him or her. However, when the business runs successfully, the owner starts demanding manifold increase in the rent due to which, they said, the trader is blackmailed and he or she has to pay exorbitant rent, which, they said, was unjustified.

They further said that MNA Mian Abdul Manan and MNA from Islamabad Asad Umar had presented a private bill in the National Assembly regarding rent control in the federal capital, which, they said, was approved by the concerned standing committee and the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Administration. But, the Parliament has not passed the bill into law as yet, they said.

They appealed to the Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Special Assistant to the PM on Law Barister Zafarullah Khan to arrange urgent passage of amended rent control bill from the Parliament.

The traders warned that if the bill was not passed into law, the traders would have no option other than launching a protest campaign. For the purpose, the protest would be started in various markets and banners would be displayed at various places while on December 19, all markets would observe partial shutter-down strike from 2pm to 4pm and the traders of every market would stage sit-in at the nearest chowks, the traders revealed. If still the demand is not met, the traders would announce next course of action on December 21. The traders can also announce complete shutter-down and sit-in in front of the Parliament House, they warned.

They appealed to the Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal that till the passage of the new rent law for Islamabad; orders should be issued to stop evictions of traders including the 48 traders against whom eviction orders have been issued.

They warned that in case of forced evictions, traders would strongly resist such moves and it could lead to law and order problems in the federal capital.

Office bearers and representatives of nearly all local markets were present in the press conference, who fully endorsed the decisions announced in the press conference.