ISLAMABAD: As the government has failed to resolve the issue of imposition of taxes in Gilgit Baltistan without giving the region constitutional rights, another complete shutter down and wheel jam strike was observed across GB on Thursday on the request of traders and political parties.
Though the regional government made all efforts to stop the strike call but the government could not convince the protestors. It appears that the government’s attempt to divide trade bodies, bazaar committees, transporters and political parties further strengthened the protestors who have now announced the schedule of series of shutter down strikes, long marches and sit-ins across GB against the imposition of taxes.
Surprisingly, while life in GB has come to standstill following the shutter down and transport strike, Gilgit Baltistan Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman and his key ministers have gone to Lahore on Thursday for attending a wedding ceremony reportedly of the son of Minister of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan Chaudhry Barjees Tahir.
The strike call on Thursday was given by the Central Traders Association (Anjuman E Tajran) of Gilgit-Baltistan, Awami Action Committee, transporters association and opposition parties including the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Islami Tehreek Pakistan (ITP), Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen (MWM), and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F).
The move against the imposition of taxes in GB was also objected by Supreme Court Bar Association, High Court Bar Association, Hotel Association, Petroleum Dealers Association, Transport Association, Timber Association and Minerals and Gems Association etc. Besides the people of the area had also joined hands with the GB’s main traders association to take on the GB government over taxation issues.
Observing the complete strike, markets, shops and business centres remained closed throughout the day in almost all 10 districts of the region while public transport also remained closed from the main roads on Karakorum Highway.
The trading community of the area was pitted against the GB council after the imposition of withholding tax, unprecedented “cleaning” taxes, and new levies on banking transfers and similar transactions vital to local traders and businessman.
The protestors have also threatened the government to face Faizabad like sit-in in every district of the region. “Besides, a march towards Islamabad will also be organised in case the government does not accept our demand,” said Gilgit Baltistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Nisar Hussain Raki.
He said the government should resolve the issue without testing nerves of the protestors more as they would not compromise on the imposition of taxes. “First decide about our constitutional position than impose any kind of tax that is levied in other provinces,” he said adding that it was unconstitutional to levy taxes on traders when no benefit was being derived from it by the local people, the traders and even the government.
Anjuman-e-Tajiran Skardu President Athar Hussain said that taxes could not be imposed on people of Gilgit-Baltistan until the region was declared a constitutional part of the country. Without representation in National Assembly and Senate, collecting of taxes from people of the region was unjust. He demanded that Gilgit-Baltistan should be declared a tax-free region. “People of the region rendered sacrifices for the country and annexed it into Pakistan unconditionally seven decades ago but the centre did not accept them. They demanded of the prime minister to look into the issue,” he added.