Policy Research Institute of Market Economy (PRIME), in collaboration with Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF), National Youth Assembly and Ahmed Bashir & Associates had conducted its 1st Working Group meeting of Street Vendor Project in Islamabad. Known as “thelay walay” in local vernacular, these street vendors make a valuable contribution by bringing the market to one’s doorstep. Their role, in the livelihood sustenance of poorer segments of the society, cannot be underestimated. The project targets five cities namely Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, and Quetta and comprises of two phases. Under its first phase, Street Vendor Assemblies have been organized in four cities (Islamabad, Karachi, Peshawar, and Quetta) while the second phase focuses on working group meetings to be held in each of the aforementioned cities. Under this project, PRIME has taken the initiative to draft a legislative bill for regulating and protecting the rights of street vendors in Pakistan. For the purpose, a focus group discussion was held to solicit feedback from multiple stakeholders on the preparation of the Legislative Bill.
The target audience for this working group meeting included an array of participants from the municipality, businesses, multilateral, academia, media, and vending community. Mr. Sajid Abbasi, Chairman of Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad and Mr. Tikka Khan, Ex-Federal Minister and Secretary-General of All Pakistan Newspaper Seller Federation graced the event with their presence. 25 in the number of participants attended the discussion.
The Forum started with a welcome address and a brief overview of the street vendor project given by Ms. Beenish Javed, Research Associate, PRIME. She highlighted the rationale and objectives of the meeting. In doing so, she also shed light on the economic significance of the vending community, the challenges facing their livelihoods and the need to regulate and protect their vending rights. It was followed by a presentation on “Street Vendors’ Rights” by Mr. Ahmed Bashir, Advocate, Ahmed Bashir & Associates. He outlined the challenges facing vendors, plausible solutions to their problems and essential features of the draft legislative bill. Thereafter, the forum was opened for a focus group discussion.
Mr. Ahmed Bashir briefed that the legislative bill would cover aspects related to the demarcation of vending zones, licensing, compensation, penalties, the formation of a representative body, establishment of vendors’ association, provision of micro-credit, redressal mechanism and formulation of a national policy for street vendors. He emphasized that in order to provide legal recognition to street vendors, declaration of clearly demarcated vending zones is a priority. While discussing the essential features of the draft bill, he proposed that the license fee should not exceed Rs. 100 per month. Additionally, it should contain the names of family members, including women.
Street vendors present at the meeting shared the extent of humiliation they have to encounter at the hands of police and unelected market committee. They feel powerless and despite paying bribes, feel insecure and fearful owing to uncertainty in their tenure. Their carts are often confiscated by the CDA without any compensation or reimbursement for the damages caused to their products. They also mentioned how complex it is to retrieve their carts from the CDA. They said most of the vendors are unaware of the nearby local dispensary and those, who are aware, do argue that it is of little use due to inadequate availability of medicines. Other participants suggested that public-private partnership is the key to improving the plight of vendors. In this regard, they suggested signing MoU with the Planning Commission in order to take this initiative forward with the requisites of Ehsaas Program.
Mr. Hanan Abbasi, President, National Youth Assembly reiterated the engagement of youth in supporting the cause of street vendors for improved rights and enhanced livelihood. Mr. Sajid Abbasi, Chairman, Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad touched upon the fragmented governance structure at Islamabad and mentioned that he is well aware of the plight of the street vendors. Despite the administrative constraints, he assured that efforts would be made to provide relief to the vendors. The forum ended with a vote of thanks from Mr. Tikka Khan, Ex-Federal Minister & Secretary General of All Pakistan Newspaper Seller Federation who reassured his full support to the organizations involved in this project.