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Retail Sector Opposes Market Closures for Smog Control

Retail Sector

Amidst government efforts to control rising smog levels by reducing commercial activity, the official trade body of the retail sector in the country has vehemently opposed the closure of markets and shops. The Chairman of the Confederation of All Pakistan (CAP), Tariq Mehboob, emphasized that targeting the retail sector is not the solution to mitigating air pollution and proposed alternative measures to address the root causes.

Retail Sector’s Opposition 

Retail Sector

Speaking at a ceremony, Tariq Mehboob highlighted that heavy transport, burning of waste and crop residue, and non-compliant factories contribute significantly to smog, not the retail sector. He pointed out that other countries, including China and neighboring nations, focus on controlling large vehicles emitting black smoke, cracking down on waste burning, and stopping polluting factories.

Mehboob emphasized that the retail sector has already faced restrictions, with operating hours limited to 10 PM for the past year due to court orders. Additional restrictions, including late openings and full-day closures, have been imposed recently, leading to substantial losses for retail businesses, employment, and tax generation.

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The CAP Chairman expressed concern that ad-hoc changes to notifications have caused confusion and abrupt disruptions for businesses and employees. He questioned the discrepancy between allowing restaurants and service sectors to remain open while shops must close, leading to continued movement of small vehicles during the closed period.

Asad Shafi, Vice Chairman of CAP, stated that repeated closures of the retail sector do not address the root causes of smog, and shutting down only one sector will not yield the desired results in smog reduction or electricity saving.

Tariq Mehboob further explained that the recent full retail shutdown in six major divisions of Punjab resulted in an extraordinary loss of Rs. 10 billion for retail businesses, the domestic supply chain, and tax revenues. He urged the government to consider alternative approaches that contribute to smog reduction without adversely affecting commerce.

While supporting the decision of the Punjab Government, Mehboob proposed adjusting daily retail operating hours to commence at 1 or 2 pm, allowing for a daily saving of 4-5 hours in the morning. This, he believes, would strike a balance between mitigating smog impact and continuing economic activities, thereby sustaining employment and taxation revenues.

Additionally, Mehboob suggested collaborating with brands on social media to educate the public on initiatives to reduce air pollution and avoid its harmful effects. The retail trade body seeks a collaborative approach with the government to implement balanced solutions that address environmental concerns without hampering the economy.