Pakistani businesses on strike over new IMF-backed taxes

Karachi: Hundreds of thousands of Pakistani businesses are on strike nationwide to protest a new sales tax, which opposition political parties say is being imposed as part of the International Monetary Fund's recent USD 6 billion bailout package for Islamabad.

Saturday's strike is happening in shopping malls and wholesale commodity markets, small shops and electronics stores. In the country's commercial hub, Karachi, divisions among retailers made the strikes less effective.

Opposition Senator Mushahid Ullah Khan says the government's "ill-conceived" financial policies have led to price hikes. The IMF approved the bailout on July 3, saying it would help reduce public debt and expand social spending. Pakistan faces dangerously low foreign reserves, a tax base of barely 1 per cent of its population, crushing trade deficits and a hefty defence budget.

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