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Traders trade in politics

AT A TIME when economic recession is around, the Lahore traders have attained importance as they can decide the fate of the opposition’s any strike by joining or staying away from the strike.

Traditionally, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz enjoys an overwhelming support among the traders and it had sympathisers even in the Musharraf-controlled Qaumi Tajir Ittehad that was nurtured into an organised outfit by the regime. The QTI had presence in all the markets of Lahore after it eliminated its rival group, the Anjuman Tajran Pakistan, during the military rule.

Later, the ATP tried to come back in traders’ affairs but failed to woo the mainstream markets. After the victory of the PML-N, the ATP was kept at distance by the PML-N leadership, however, when Shahbaz was removed as the chief minister and the governor’s rule was imposed in Punjab, the ATP arranged protests for restoration of the PML-N government.

The unprecedented loadshedding and increase in petroleum rates provided the ATP with a chance to make a comeback. It announced a shutter down in Lahore that was a complete success. Its rival, the QTI, was forced to join the strike.

The ATP then announced province-wise shutter down that the QTI opposed and opening of major markets throughout the province revealed its strength.The Pakistan Peoples’ Party that does not have much support among the traders, decided to woo the QTI traders that stayed away from the last strike call of the ATP.

The News has learnt that leaders of QTI were invited to Punjab Governor’s House last week where they held a detailed discussion with PPP leader Malik Hafeez and PPP Lahore President Asghar Gujjar. The QTI leadership was offered full cooperation of the PPP regarding redress of all their problems. In return, the PPP leaders wanted the QTI to be renamed as the Peoples’ Qaumi Tajir Ittehad.

It was learnt that the QTI leaders, while appreciating the support offered by the PPP, refused to change the name of the body on the plea that they were an apolitical organisation where the members had diversified political leanings but they were united for the rights of the traders. They said they could not attach the organisation with any political party.

The PPP leaders were also informed that majority of traders had a soft corner for the PML-N and a change in name of the QTI would split the organisation.It was learnt that the PPP leadership said that they needed change of name to satisfy their workers. The QTI leaders proposed that the PPP could facilitate them by establishing small traders’ chamber and the QTI would then operate under that banner.

The meeting adjourned with the pledge from the PPP leaders that the traders would soon be invited to meet the Punjab governor. The News learnt that an appointment with the Punjab governor was then arranged but the QTI leadership reached the Governor’s House much after the appointed time when the governor was leaving to attend a function.

It was learnt that QTI was dismayed by the support that the ATP was reportedly getting from the PML-N and they decided to show their strength by opposing the strike call of the ATP on a popular issue and they succeeded.

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