There was no real documentation of just how many businesses shut down on Saturday as a result of the traders’ strike across the country, but the All Pakistan Anjuman Tajran (APAT) and other trading unions would obviously have everyone believe that most traders in Pakistan were fully behind the cause. Claims of over 95% of businesses in many cities were touted, but there is quite obviously a discrepancy between the narrative of the businesses and the situation in reality.

The one thing that became obvious as a result of the protest is that the trader community in general is not overly optimistic with many of the economic decisions taken by the current government. Markets across the country were closed, albeit for many different reasons.

Although the APAT will have the country believe that the protesters were united behind the opposition of the new taxation and documentation measures imposed on traders by the Federal Board of Revenue, the budget on its own has led to many disgruntled business owners who are not opposed to showing their displeasure. Inflation, rising costs of doing businesses, depreciating currency rates are all part of the current feeling of gloom among the traders. This is just another reason why the government should not consider relenting to the position of the traders, if the demands themselves were not reason enough that is.

While the traders will have the public believe that the strike is a means to protect consumer interest as well, the reality is that the only reason the traders are doing this is because of themselves. The documentation of more transactions is likely to lead to a more transparent business environment and many in the community will no longer have the ability to escape the tax net.

If the government wants to meet somewhere in the middle, instead of demanding for a copy of the National Identity Card for transactions over Rs40000, perhaps the government can find a middle ground by developing a database for high volume transactions and the individuals and businesses that make them so that traders, retailers and consumers do not have to jump through the same hoops over and over again. Currently the strike by the traders carries no weight because the government will not consider relenting over these measures, one can only wonder how long they will keep at it.