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Sindh says will present traders’ stance on coronavirus lockdown in NCC meeting

People gather outside a milk and dairy items retailer as a market curfew begins during a province-wide lockdown in Sindh to contain the novel coronavirus in Karachi, Pakistan, April 4, 2020. The News/Haseem uz Zaman/Files

KARACHI: The government of Sindh said Thursday it would present the traders community’s stance on lifting of the coronavirus lockdown in an upcoming meeting of the National Coordination Committee (NCC).

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah made the assurance during a meeting with a delegation of traders, comprising industrialist Siraj Qasim Teli, Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI) President Agha Shahab, KCCI Senior Vice-President Arshad Islam, All Pakistan Restaurants Association Chairperson Ather Chawla, Mian Zahid and Khurram Ijaz of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), business magnate Mirza Ikhtiar Baig, Toni&Guy CEO and Pakistan Hairdressers and Beauticians Association (PHABA) VP Saeeda Mehmood Mandviwalla, and Senate Deputy Chairman Saleem Mandviwalla.

The businessmen urged Sindh CM to lift the ban and allow all business activities to continue in the province, assuring him of following the standard operating procedures (SOPs) as agreed earlier.

Shah said imposing the lockdown to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus was not his personal decision but was taken by the federal government in consultation with the provinces.

He, therefore, assured the traders that he would present their point of view in the next NCC meeting, scheduled before May 31.

Sindh Information Minister Nasir Hussain Shah, Labour Minister Saeed Ghani, Excise Minister Mukesh Chawla, and Industries Minister Ikramullah Dharejo were also present in the meeting.

It may be noted that the present lockdown is imposed till May 31.

Businesses to operate as per notified timings

Separately, Sindh Information Minister Nasir Hussain Shah said business activities across the province would continue to operate as per directions of the Supreme Court of Pakistan till May 31.

The apex court during a hearing of a suo motu case on May 18 had directed business activities to continue their operations on all days till May 31.

Moreover, the NCC is scheduled to meet under Prime Minister Imran Khan within the next two days to decide on the continuation of the coronavirus lockdown.

Risk of ‘dramatic rise in inflation’

Ijaz, the FPCCI vice-president, claimed later in the day that the government of Sindh had agreed to the proposal to open all industries.

“There is a shortage of goods on a local level due to the closure of industries. If ordinary industries do not open up, there is a risk of a dramatic rise in inflation,” Ijaz said, adding that there was a shortage of crude steel to be used as foundations in the construction sector.

The FPCCI, he added, demanded that all industries be opened in accordance with the SOP but the Sindh government has made the decision conditional on consultation with its federal counterpart.

Sindh also rejected a proposal to open dine-ins on the condition of practising social distancing, he said, adding that another one to extend the timings of takeaway and home delivery from restaurants would be considered.

‘Open all industries, businesses, markets’

Pakistan Businessmen and Intellectuals Forum (PBIF) President Mian Zahid Hussain also met Sindh CM Shah to discuss the challenges the industrialists and traders were facing during the coronavirus lockdown.

Hussain demanded that all industries, businesses, markets and restaurants — with full compliance with the SOPs — be opened immediately.

“Food courts should be allowed to open in shopping malls,” he said, adding that the chief minister had assured him of reviewing his demands.

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