ISLAMABAD - The participants of Parliamentary Committee on coronavirus (COVID-19) expressed their resolve that collective efforts can lead to win  war against Corona pandemic in the country.

The Parliamentary Vommittee, chaired by Senator Syed Shibli Faraz, were unanimous in their opinion that people`s representative and business community together can ensure economic survival of the country in current unusual emergency.  They agreed on a point that the business and agricultural segments are of vital importance to bring the country out of the present economic and health crisis.

“The government is well aware of the sufferings of the small and large traders and is ready to facilitate the business community,” said Senator Syed Shibli Faraz while chairing the meeting.  On the invitation of the Chair the leaders of the business community put forth their suggestions and issues faced by their community.  Expressing their deteriorating economic  faced by majority of the businessmen  situation due to Corona crisis, President FPCCI Anjum Nisar and President Small Traders Association Ajmal Baloch put a suggestion to waive off gas and electricity bills due to lockdown.

 Other members said government needs to ensure financial security for  also pointed small traders and shopkeepers. Member of FPCCI asked the Committee that concerned authorities need to review   the restriction on exports especially on Afghan Transit trade, enforcement of the SBP interest rate. They suggested for implementation of the decision of the government for waiver of demurrage charges imposed on ships at seaports. Ajmal Baloch suggested that rents and utility bills of shopkeepers and small traders may be waived off for the duration of this pandemic besides allowing small traders to open their businesses for small duration subject to observance of health guidelines and SoPs by Health Department. He also suggested for provision of interest free loans for small traders and shopkeepers for revival of their businesses.

Minister for Industries and Production Muhammad Hammad Azhar said that government is focusing to address economic woes of the business community especially the small traders and their electricity bill will be waved off for next 6 months. He informed that almost 95 per cent small business used commercial meters as the electricity and gas bills will be paid by government itself during lockdown. On the other hand he also pointed out that a special package of Rs.70 Billion for laid off workers associated with industrial sector will be announced by the government soon.  He further said that as far as the large businesses are concerned they can be get facilitation through different financing facilities by the State bank of Pakistan.

Responding to the issue regarding imposition of ban on export through Afghan transit trade, the Minister said that majority of the exports to Afghanistan are food items, therefore, in order to ensure food security in the country the said ban was imposed.  The Minister further informed that a single package cannot address the issues of all the industrial sectors, therefore, sector specific packages will be devised by the government. Minister for IPC Dr. Fehmida Mirza said that there is a dire need to bring out unanimous policy regarding lock down in the country.  She urged for cooperative federalism which would create harmony in the relief efforts and combating this disease.  Emphasizing the role of Council of Common Interests, she said that all the issues needed to be discussed at CCI level for achieving unanimity to control this pandemic.  Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Minister for Foreign Affairs said that government is fully cognizant of the issues faced by the common traders and masses and urged the all public representative to cooperate with all at every level.

Ali Muhammad Khan, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs said this Parliamentary Committee, being the august forum, must take prompt decision. He also demanded that implementation of the decision taken by the Committee must be followed in letter and spirit.

He also suggested for take appropriate action against the Mill owners who laid-off their workers and not paying their outstanding wages. The Committee unanimously recommended for the release of arrested traders in Karachi at the earliest. The other members of the Parliamentary Committee belonging to Opposition urged the government to take unanimous measures to tackle the situation emerged due to COVID-19. They also demanded that trade and business community should be the special focus of the policymakers.

They also stressed for taking note of unscheduled power outages in Balochistan and rural area of the country. They also suggested for inviting representatives of farming community in next meeting of the Committee to hear their points of view on problems being faced by them.

The meeting was attended by Ministers Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Hussain Qureshi, Pervez Khattak, Dr. Fehmida Mirza, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Ali Muhammad Khan, Muhammad Hammad Azhar , MNAs Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Ms. Shahida Akhtar Ali, Nawabzada Shazain Bugti,  Amir Haider Azam Khan, Senator Mushahid Ullah Khan, Senator Muhammad Ali Khan Saif, Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali, Senator Sitara Ayaz, Senator Anwar ul Haq Kakar , Senator Aurangzeb Khan,  and as Special invitees Dr. Nausheen Hamid, Parliamentary Secretary, MNAs Mr. Khurram Shahzad, Ali Pervaiz, Senator Saleem Mandviwala.

The members who joined the meeting through video link were Senators Ms. Sherry Rehman, Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo, Muhammad Usman Khan Kakar.

The special invitees from business community were Ajmal Baloch, President All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajran and Anjum Nisar President FPCCI.