All Pakistan Traders Association (APTA) has opposed the government’s decision to close markets and commercial centers by 8 pm starting from 1 July as a measure to conserve energy, as announced by the Planning and Development Minister, Ahsan Iqbal in a press conference in Islamabad on Tuesday.
The decision was made during a meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC), chaired by the Prime Minister (PM), Shehbaz Sharif, where estimated budget figures were also approved.
The plan encompassed several measures, such as closing markets at 8:30 pm and wedding halls at 10 pm, promoting the use of efficient electronic appliances, reducing power consumption in government offices by 40 percent, imposing additional duties on inefficient electric fans, adopting LED bulbs, introducing electric bikes, phasing out petrol-run motorcycles, and reducing street lighting capacity to 50 percent.
The PM’s Office (PMO) wants to ensure provincial governments’ involvement in implementing the National Energy Conservation Plan. They highlighted the potential reduction in the country’s fuel import bill by over 10-15 percent or Rs. 1 billion in a short period.
Minister Iqbal expressed hope that provincial governments would ensure the implementation of the approved energy conservation package, which could potentially save the country up to $1 billion annually.
In response to the decision, APTA President Ajmal Baloch suggested that the government should reconsider its plan to close shops by 8 pm. He asserted that the shops would not be closed so early during the summer season. Baloch emphasized the importance of the energy minister engaging in dialogue with traders to effectively address this matter.
According to Atiq Mir, a Karachi trader’s leader, the decision would not be successful. Mir criticized the decision as unilateral, asserting that traders were not consulted, and highlighted the negative impact it would have on the business community.
He also raised concerns about the performance of power companies, which have not shown improvement over the years, further pointing out that previous decisions to close businesses early had not yielded any positive outcomes.