ISLAMABAD - PRIME Institute, in collaboration with Friedrich Naumann Foundation and National Youth Assembly, has held a Street Vendor Assembly in Sabzi Mandi Area of Islamabad.

The event was attended by a large number of stall holders and cart pushers, operating in the vicinity of city fruits and vegetables market. The purpose of the assembly was to create awareness among street vendors about the lacunas in country laws that exacerbate their economic plight. Syed Zeeshan Naqvi, Deputy Mayor of Islamabad, was the chief guest at the event.

Zia Banday, Executive Director of PRIME, elaborated on the economic aspects of street vending. He mentioned that this low economic segment is much resilient in survival against all odds, which has emerged due to uneven imposition of rule of law. It is impacting the earning capacity of the street vendors, who are the victims of state apathy and at the mercy of different mafias. Street vendors are playing a very important role in serving as a distribution channel for taking the goods of cottage and small businesses to the low and middle income groups. Mostly street vendors are from low skilled and rural migrant segments. They are a vital cog in an urban economy, which needs to be taken into account for any city planning.

Ahmed Bashir, a senior lawyer and a research fellow, said that street vendors are heart of Islamabad’s economy, which is refused to be dislodged.  And yet, Street vending and provision of services escapes attention despite it being the primary means of combating poverty and of economic survival for many inhabitants of the city.

In his concluding remarks, Syed Zeeshan Naqvi, Deputy Mayor of Islamabad, has informed the audience about the fragmented governance structure at Islamabad. Different facets of the city are managed by different civic agencies, which are inhibiting provision of quality service to the citizenry. He mentioned that as an elected representative of the city, he is well aware of the plight of the street vendors. Despite the administrative constraints, he will make all efforts to provide relief to them. He said that till the local government in the city is not empowered to take charge of development, the present unaccountable system will make things worse not better.

In a question & answer session, various street vendors did talk about the humiliation they have to undergo at the hands of police and unelected market committee. They feel powerless and despite paying bribes, they remain insecure and fearful owing to uncertainty in their tenure. PRIME Institute did announce constituting of a working group that will comprise of elected representatives, street vendors and civil society to lobby government for improving upon the legal structure for the street vendors.