LAHORE - Businesses in almost all major cities of Punjab, including the provincial capital, remained closed on Monday due to fear of violence amid protests against changes to the declaration of finality of prophethood.

As a result, businesses suffered an estimated loss of Rs40 billion on Monday alone. The traders at Lahore’s all wholesale markets kept their shops shut to avoid any untoward incident due to violent behaviour of protesters.

The wholesale markets and bazaars remained closed all day long; however, retail markets reopened in the evening when the situation improved and the sit-in in Islamabad was called off.

A complete shutter down was seen at all major markets. These include Auto Market, Badami Bagh; Hall Road; Sarafa Bazaar; Anarkali Bazaar; Urdu Bazaar; McLeod Road Market; Brandreth Road; Medicine Market; Hafeez Centre; Bilal Ganj Market; Shah Alam Market; Goods Transport Companies; Ganpat Road Paper Market; Ichhra Bazaar; Bandhan Road Markets; Azam Cloth Market; Chungi Ammarsidhu markets; Circular Road and Akbari Mandi.

Petrol shortage was also seen in several areas of the provincial capital as more than 70 percent of petrol pumps remained closed. However, a number of petrol pumps were selling petroleum products and a huge rush of customers and long queues were seen there.

Closure of petrol pumps in some areas created shortage of petrol in those areas, making commuters face hardships. Hundreds of cars and motorcycles were lined outside fuel stations where petrol was being sold. Cars were being sold petrol up to a limit of Rs500 while motorcycles were being allowed to buy petrol up to Rs100 in some localities.

Pakistan Petroleum Dealers Association President Khawaja Atif said the situation would improve on Tuesday, as fuel of around Rs1.3 million had been dispatched to Lahore. He assured consumers that outlets across the city would have no shortage of gasoline on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, due to barriers on roads, transportation of vegetables to main markets, was severely affected. Vegetable markets remained closed on Monday, creating shortage of veggie items in the city. Even there was a lack of variety at Sunday bazaars due to closure of markets on Saturday. On Monday, limited shops were open to offer a number of veggie items, which were not fresh either.

APAT President Khalid Pervaiz said the economy of Lahore alone suffered an estimated loss of around Rs15 billion on Monday, as all markets and industrial units remained closed due to uncertainty. There was a loss of over Rs40 billion worth of trading activity during the last couple of days in Lahore, as the city remained shut on Saturday. He said there was a partial shutdown in all industrial zones as workers could not reach their factories because of public transport unavailability. He said that violence had been going on for the last many days in the city, and attacks on vehicles in the capital frustrated all traders. “Closure of businesses for one day in the city hits Rs15 billion worth of daily trade,” he said.

APAT General Secretary Naeem Mir expressed concerns over deteriorating law and order situation in the city and criticised the government for failing to control the situation. All businesspeople appealed to the government to control the law and order situation and provide protection to citizens and businesses. He said that all factions of the traders in Lahore had unanimously decided to close their shops to avoid any untoward incident, not to support the sit-ins or protest launched in the name of religion.

He demanded that the government take strict measures to control law and order situation in the country. He said the deteriorating law and order situation would hit government’s efforts to attract foreign investment and encourage local businesses.