LAHORE-The Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) on Monday gave an SOS call to the government for early compensation to affectees of Hafeez Center tragedy. Addressing a hurriedly called press conference, LCCI President Mian Tariq Misbah drew attention of the government towards the plight of Hafeez Center fire victims. The Hafeez Center tragedy has caused irreparable damage to the property, shops and businesses of thousands of people, the effects of which will be felt for decades to come, he said. Fanked by Senior Vice President Nasir Hameed Khan, Vice President Tahir Manzoor Chaudhry and Executive Committee members, Tariq Misbah said that government should formulate a plan of action to compensate traders for their losses. He appreciated media and said that “we pay tribute to the media for the diligence with which they covered the incident throughout the day,” adding “the performance of rescue, police, army, disaster management, district administration and allied agencies is also commendable”.

He said that the business community already has many problems because of Corona and this tragic incident has caused an irreversible loss. “We welcome the move as the government has immediately constituted a 14-member committee which will submit its preliminary report in 24 hours and a full report in a week estimating the losses,” he said. Office bearers said that, the LCCI extends heartfelt sympathies to the business community and demands immediate redressal of their grievances. “We demand that the government immediately announce cash compensation to the affected businessmen as soon as the loss estimate report is received”, they added. They informed that the business community contributes Rs626 billion in Custom Duty, Rs250 billon Federal Excise Duty and Rs1,596 billion in sales tax to national exchequer. They said that the government should also announce assistance to the employees who were working in the shops and offices of Hafeez Center. Until the Hafeez Center is fully restored, the government should also take responsibility for the salaries of the employees. The government should play its role in rehabilitating the building of Hafeez Center and should also bear the expenses incurred in this regard. This work should be done on war footing basis, they said. On the other hand, The Pakistan Industrial and Traders Association Front (PIAF) chairman Mian Nauman Kabir has expressed his deep concern over the huge financial losses caused by the Hafeez Center inferno in provincial metropolis, urging the government to formulate a strategy in consultation with the real stakeholders to determine the cause of the fire as early as possible, besides compensating traders for their losses. 

In a joint statement with vice chairman Javed Siddiqi, Mian Nauman expressed his deep sorrow over the loss of property and demanded of the government to announce full relief for the affected the businessmen. 

PIAF leadership said that government should announce compensation for the businessmen who have suffered huge losses and also urged the private sector to get fire insurance at the earliest to avoid such unprecedented fatalities in future. 

He urged the Federal and Provincial governments to ensure infrastructure development and installation of fire hydrants at those places of all market which are inaccessible for fire tenders. He said that despite various fire incidents in the country in general and Lahore in particular during last one decade, no concrete measures had been taken. 

He said that, PIAF has always been standing by the traders and would continue to raise its voice at every forum and would strongly demand the government to correct their losses by identifying them. He said that, Hafeez Center is an important and big commercial center of Lahore in which small and big traders do businesses, it is impossible to recover from the damage caused by this fire. 

Mian Nauman Kabir said that, although it is the government’s task to put Hydrants in inaccessible market places but in case of financial constraints at government level, the private sector should also contribute. He asked the government to announce compensation for the businessmen who have suffered huge losses and also urged the private sector to get fire insurance on their own. 

He said that the fire incidents in Lahore have exposed the weaknesses in the system and there is an urgent need to rectify them on emergent basis.