‘You’ll regret taking this to the point of no return!’


A large number of business leaders, industrialists, traders and workers staged a sit-in and launched out a protest rally on Saturday from Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) to Punjab Governor House against suspension of gas supply to industrial units.
Business community leaders threatened to continue their agitation till normalisation of gas supply. They urged the government to immediately announce complete ban on new gas connections and to formulate an equitable gas load management plan. Businessmen further demanded of the government to to waive off mark up for the period in which trade and industry was refused gas supply.
Business leaders from all the 17 chambers of commerce and industry of Punjab and dozens of trade association participated in the LCCI-led protest rally, which disbursed peacefully at the Governor House after assurance of two-day gas supply to the industry in Punjab.
Addressing the angry businessmen and industrial workers, LCCI President Irfan Qaiser Sheikh stressed that the government had to redefine its priorities related to natural gas supply. Suspension of gas supply to industrial units had already rendered thousands of daily wagers jobless as a large number of industrial units had been shut down.
It was very unfortunate that the economy was the last priority of the present regime, he said, adding that the non-serious attitude towards real issues was giving birth to various social evils.
“If the situation doesn’t improve, law and order may suffer,” he said.
LCCI president pointed out that the industry was paying a mark up for 365 days, while it was given natural gas for only 200 days last year that caused huge production losses. He asked President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to intervene since the situation was headed towards a ‘point of not return’.
Addressing the protest rally, Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Muzammil Sultan, Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Javaid Akhtar Bhatti, Gujranwala Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Malik Zaheer indicated that similar protests would be staged in all cities of Punjab as the government seemed least interested in the wellbeing of the economy.
They said it was the responsibility of the government to ensure provision of necessary utilities to masses. But the situation was totally in contrast with the tall claims of the government even after four years in the power.
LCCI former presidents, including Mian Anjum Nisar, Iftikhar Ali Malik, Bashir A Baksh, Mian Muhammad Ashraf, Sheikh Muhammad Asif, Muhammad Ali Mian, LCCI former senior vice presidents Abdul Basit and Sohail Lashari and vice presidents Shafqat Saeed Piracha, Irfan Iqbal Sheikh, Sohail Azhar and Vice Chairman of Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association Khawaja Shahzeb Akram said the business community wanted to play its role for the progress and prosperity of the country but the government was trying to keep them busy in petty issues. They said government’s policies had forced them to come out on the streets. If the government did not take any action even after the sit-in, business community would give calls for protest in Islamabad.
They said no police case could stop business community leaders in continuing their struggle till the acceptance of their genuine demands in the larger interest of trade, industry, economy and the country. Presidents of all 17 chambers of the province, Anjuman-i-Tajiran Pakistan, Qoumi Tajir Ittehad Pakistan and Chairmen of all the sector-specific associations, LCCI Senior Vice President Kashif Younis Meher, Vice President Saeeda Nazar and former LCCI presidents were prominent among participants of the protest.
The protesters were carrying banners inscribed with slogans “We reject discrimination with Punjab in supply of gas,” “We reject increasing unemployment,” “Save our jobs, save our children” and were chanting full-throat slogans against the government. They also burnt tyres.
Representation of Lahore Township Industrial Area Association, Ferozepur Road IAA, Katarbund Road Association, Textile Printing and Processing Association, Anjuman-e-Tajiran Pakistan, Ferozepur Road Welfare Association was also witnessed in the protest.