While Sindh took a breather, Karachi was at work on Thursday


The present PPP-led democratically-elected government whereas does not feel tired to declare public holidays on the federal and provincial level, the frequenting official offs coupled with forced closures do not set well with the city’s trade and businesses with daily wagers being hit the hardest.
The violence-hit city witnessed a busiest day on Thursday which the Sindh government had announced as a public holiday to commemorate the 5th death anniversary of slain PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto on Dec 27, 2007.
Perhaps fed up with frequenting official and unofficial shut downs, the commuters, transporters, traders and businessmen, particularly the small ones, packed the city roads as if there was no holiday. A randomly-conducted survey of the city on Thursday revealed that the city residents related to divergent professions, ranging from a traffic policeman to a cobbler, want their elected representatives in the corridors of power to review their approach on public holidays.
“The rush is because (public) holidays and strikes (forced closures) are so frequent that the common man is totally broke and many are starving,” Ali Shah, a traffic sergeant at Meriwether Tower, replied when this reporter asked him to reason the unusual activity on a holiday. Shah said though Thursday was a provincial holiday the paranoid but poor people were compelled to come out of their houses and earn sustenance for their families. The irritated policeman went on even to concede that daily closures were costing him 200 to 300 rupees that he routinely takes from the transporters. “Even I have not been able to make the daily 200 to 300 rupees. Frankly, how could we have it if no vehicles would ply on the roads,” complained the policeman. Ibrahim Ismail Chundrigar Road, popularly known as Pakistan’s Wall Street, was packed with commuters and public and private transport. Muhammad Tayyab, who sells second-hand ties and leather-belts on a footpath near Shell petrol pump, said the city’s closure, whatever the reason is, costs him his ”Dehary” (daily wage) that, he said, ranges from 500 to 600 rupees.
“While inflation is backbreaking such closures have made it next to impossible for us to meet the two end’s meal,” he said. Tayyab demanded the government to ban all political parties that, he believes, were fanning all kinds of biases among the crises-hit people. “They first kill each other’s men and then forcefully shut the city down,” complained the small businessmen.
Tayyab also wants the government to end the ever-increasing public holidays, something, he said, were falling heavily on daily wage earners like him.
“We already have two-day weekly offs. Then come official holidays and strikes,” said Tayyab who prices a tie and a belt, respectively, at Rs 25 and Rs 50. A cobbler, sitting next to Tayyab, had the same story to narrate. “Off days cost us Rs 200 to Rs 300 (a day). There should be no holidays which leave daily wagers like us without sustenance,” said the middle-aged cobbler, who preferred not to be named. Mehmood, proprietor of a food outlet “Taste On”, said he had three daily wagers earning Rs 300 to Rs 500 a day. “When the city is closed they, and me too, have to lose our Dehary”, said he. Claiming to have not attached any hope to the corrupt government, Mehmood termed holidays on “a few important days” as justifiable. He also wants the political parties to be “filtered” for the segregation of criminal elements from them.
“The politicians and parties should play their role in making peace in the city sustainable,” said Mehmood.
Dost Muhammad, a youngling rickshaw driver from Nazimabad Number 4, also has to give up 700 to 800 rupees if the city is shut. “You have to keep your vehicle off the roads due to CNG problem, government holidays and then strikes. It’s back breaking,” the driver told this reporter.
Fine with a weekly holiday, Dost Muhammad appealed to the rulers to also think of the poor masses while declare public holidays for one reason or the other. “How the poor laborers would make their sustenance,” he said.
Ismail Ramazan sells “channa”, “chalya”, toffees etc for last 12 long years on the footpath near Karachi Cotton Exchange. The small businessman also complained to have lost his daily earning of Rs 500 on Wednesday when fear of violence had left the city deserted due to the strike of Ahl-e-Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat whose leader came under an armed attack a day earlier.
“We are three people at home, me, my wife and our son Muhammad Mustafa who studies in 8th class,” the soft-spoken Ramazan said. “Not so many holidays should be there as the same make us suffer in terms of livelihood,” opined the poor seller who was sitting in the open on ground. The closures of any sort cost trade and businesses in this commercial hub of the country billions with all Karachi Tajir Ittehad chairman Atiq Mir and KCCI President Muhammad Haroon Agar differing each other’s estimates. While the former puts daily losses to city trade at Rs 3 billion, the latter says the damages are not more than Rs 2 billion.
As for the populous government, the Sindh Assembly was the only forum where call for an end to the observance of frequenting public holidays was heard during a recent session. But that call too was politically-motivated.
Rafique Engineer, a PPP provincial minister, had expressed concern over “a year of 365-day holidays” while opposing the demand from PML-F lawmaker Rana Abdul Sattar who wanted the death anniversary of his party chief, late Pir Pagara, to be declared as an official off day in the province.