Amidst the Punjab government’s move to impose a smart lockdown, local traders and restaurant owners have firmly opposed the decision.
Caretaker Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi had issued a stern warning of stringent actions against any defiance beginning this Friday.
Notably, the government also enforced a lockdown on commercial banks and courts in specific districts across the province.
In efforts to curb the prevailing smog conditions, the Punjab government announced the imposition of Section 144 and health emergencies in the Lahore Division on Wednesday.
The notification announced the implementation of Section 144 in Lahore, Kasur, Sheikhupura and Nankana Sahib districts. Consequently, all educational institutions, government and private offices, cinemas, public parks and restaurants will remain closed in those districts on Saturday.
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Recognising the gravity of the smog situation, Naqvi took steps to engage with the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) governor, proposing the closure of banks from Thursday to Sunday to mitigate pollution.
He emphasized on the criticality of the next four days in addressing the smog crisis.
However, the marriage halls, bakeries, pharmacies, public transport and construction activities are slated to remain operational.
Naqvi also urged citizens to adhere to the stay-at-home advisory during the upcoming holidays, underscoring the imposition of Section 144 in light of the prevailing environmental and health emergency.
He reiterated the government’s commitment to preventing unnecessary outdoor activities, particularly on the Iqbal Day, and stressed the rigorous enforcement of anti-smog measures in the days ahead.
He anticipated that the reduced traffic on the roads would contribute significantly to improving the overall environmental conditions.
Furthermore, Naqvi called upon the trader community to recognise the imminent traffic restrictions and subsequent reduction in public movement.
Also read Punjab declares smog emergency
He hoped the traders would also announce closure of markets in line with the measures being taken to combat the smog crisis.
He expressed optimism that the ongoing initiatives would lead to a considerable reduction in the intensity of smog. Various representative bodies of traders and restaurant owners collectively opposed the government’s decision to halt their operations.
Speaking at a press conference, members of the Lahore Restaurant Association and the All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajran criticised the smog-induced lockdown in Punjab.
Nisar Chaudhry, a member of the Lahore Restaurant Association, attributed the financial distress faced by the restaurant industry over the past three years to the Punjab authorities.
He pointed out the absence of restrictions on factors like factories and traffic that contributed to air pollution and smog.
Chaudhry expressed disappointment at the lack of consultation with the restaurant associations, given the substantial workforce associated with the industry, and urged the withdrawal of the decision.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 9th, 2023.
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