Markets in major Pakistani cities have refused to follow a new government directive to close early as part of an energy conservation drive. The directive, issued on Tuesday, required malls, markets, and restaurants to close by 8:30 p.m. to save on fuel imports, which have depleted Pakistan’s foreign reserves and left them only sufficient to cover one month’s worth of imports.
However, Reuters reporters in Lahore, Karachi, and Peshawar observed that almost all major markets and malls remained open beyond the cut-off time on Wednesday. Business owners and traders have resisted the plan, citing the impact it would have on their livelihoods.
Mohammad Ishaq, president of the Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Peshawar, stated that businesses already struggling with security issues and energy shortages would fight attempts to enforce the directive. Muhammad Raza, a toy shop owner in Lahore, said the policy would “kill” his business, which relies on evening customers.
Markets in Pakistani cities typically stay open late into the night, often until 11 p.m., to accommodate shoppers. Mohammad Ajmal Baloch, president of the Pakistan Traders Association in Karachi, also said that local traders were reluctant to reduce business hours.
Businesses are concerned that the energy-saving measures will further slow down the economy, which has already been affected by historic floods in August 2022, rising energy costs, and central bank rate hikes to control high inflation. The central bank has revised its growth projections downward to 2% for the financial year 2023, and Pakistan has struggled to avoid default, with $1.1 billion in International Monetary Fund financing still awaiting approval.