Karachi industry grinds to a standstill as protests cripple transport

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KARACHI: Industrial and commercial trading activities in the country’s economic nerve centre came to a standstill on Thursday owing to thin labour attendance and lack of public transport amid violent protests in the streets. Wholesale markets were also shut.

Most industry leaders said the closure of public transport and the inability of labourers to get to their place of work was the primary reason for the disruption. Second, they also pointed to absence of goods transport, particularly to finished consignments that had to reach the port but were stranded at the factory premises instead. Several industry leaders told Dawn that the government ought to seek a negotiated path forward rather than showing aggression towards the protesters.

The disruption in the transportation led to a shutdown in production at almost all six industrial areas of the city.

The ongoing protests by religious parties started at noon on Wednesday as protectors paralysed the city by closing off major roads which resulted in closure of shopping centres like Gulf market, Tariq Road, Saddar, Zamzama Street among othersARTICLE

Sindh Industrial Trading Estate (Site) President Saleem Parekh said the industry was open during the first half of Wednesday since the labourers had already reached their workplace. But as protests escalated on Thursday, workers were unable to reach work after complete shutdown of public transport.

Speaking to Dawn, he said that around 40-55 per cent of the industrial units suffered production losses and shipment delays during last two days as truckers were unwilling to undertake any delivery assignments.

“We have to meet Christmas orders which should reach our buyers on time but unfortunately, during last two days, export containers could not be hauled to ports as transport was largely unavailable,” he said.

He said SITE is home to around 3,100 industrial units; 1,400 are export-oriented and employ around 0.6 million workforce.

Korangi Association of Trade and Industry (Kati) President M Danish Khan said that a country under alarmingly high debt burden cannot afford to lose a single hour of production.

Danish said that shutdown at Kati has resulted in massive losses during the last two days as it includes more than 4,500 large and medium-sized industries along with two refineries.

Managing Director Pakistan Refinery Limited Aftab Husain said operations remained smooth with “no visible impact on oil deliveries” though some staff experienced difficulties in getting to work in Korangi.

“A few more days will tell us more” he added, suggesting that if the protests are to persist, oil movement could be impaired.

The Kati president, however, said that during last two days, only 50pc of production was achieved because of poor workforce attendance amid absence of transport also required to bring raw materials and haulage of export containers.

Landhi Association of Trade and Industry (Lati) President Zain Bashir voiced similar concerns citing losses due to missing workforce. He added that apart from exports, domestic sales with larger volume, has also suffered significantly. Above all, industry is unable to satisfy foreign buyers over the delay in shipments.

He said closure of major textile producers at the Lati industrial units has caused mammoth losses as they produce goods for both foreign and domestic markets.

He urged the government to intervene and handle the situation to avoid further losses to industry and exports.

President Site Super Highway Association of Industry, Raja M Ilyas said the industrial production was affected badly since the entire workforce comes from the city. Similarly, he said raw material supplies as well exports have to travel from ports.

Wholesale markets shut

The wholesale trade of essential items was also affected by sit-ins in various parts of the city.

Chairman Karachi Wholesalers Grocers Association, Anis Majeed said the Dandia Bazaar, hub of wholesale commodity trade, was shut on Imam Hussain’s Chehlum on Tuesday.

The market opened fine on Wednesday morning but closed down shortly after the SC verdict was announced. On Thursday it remained closed.

According to Falahi Anjuman Wholesale Vegetable Market Super Highway Chairman Mr Shahjehan, the supply of vegetables from up country remained normal but customer turnout at Highway Mandi on Thursday remained 30-40pc low due to city-wide protests.

General Secretary All City Tajir Ittehad Ahmed Shamsi said the markets ­— especially old city area wholesale trade hubs — had remained closed for the last two days.

“City’s trade and business centres have suffered at least Rs8-10bn trade loss following the closure of wholesale and commercial centres,” he estimated

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