The federal and provincial governments have unanimously decided to shut markets by 8pm across the country as part of the efforts to conserve energy, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal said on Tuesday while addressing media following the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting held in Islamabad with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in chair. The federal minister said chief ministers of three provinces – Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – participated in the huddle while the planning minister of Balochistan represented the provincial government. This initiative could save around $1 billion annually, he added. He said representatives of provincial governments were present in the NEC meeting and they had been advised to get it implemented to save precious resources. He said energy had become a big challenge for Pakistan and the government would reduce dependence on fossil fuels and imported oil, and give due focus on energy conservation. Likewise, the minister said government would promote green energy including solar, hydel and wind and no new imported fuel-based project would be introduced. The federal minister added that the government’s highest expenses are incurred on energy. “Measures are being taken to control these expenses, and if we manage to control them, many issues will be resolved,” he said. He mentioned that the biggest challenge during the summer season is electricity generation, saying that to fulfil the demands of domestic consumers, there was a consensus to close markets early in the evening, and the government will make further important decisions regarding this matter in the future. The decision was endorsed by the provincial chief ministers. It was also decided to introduce LED lights in place of old bulbs along with the implementation of green energy projects. Meanwhile, the traders have rejected the decision of the federal government. The All Pakistan Traders Association has responded to the government’s decision, demanding the withdrawal of the decision to close shops at 8pm. All Pakistan Traders Association President Jamil Baloch stated in a press release that no shops will be closed at 8pm this summer. “Every government has failed in the unsuccessful practice of closing shops at 8pm. In the summer season, no purchases are made during the day; buying only occurs from 8pm to 11pm.” Baloch said that traders are the ones who purchase the most expensive electricity in the country. “It is absurd to stop the economic wheel to save energy. The government should cease the supply of free electricity and the rulers should turn off their air conditioners. Every household’s fan will be operational then. It is unfortunate that when it comes to energy conservation, either the defence minister speaks or the planning minister does. The energy minister should sit with trader representatives and have a discussion,” he further said.