A Pakistani man walks through a main market which is closed due to a strike in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Saturday, July 13, 2019. Pakistani traders have largely kept their business shut across the country against the new sales tax regime in the first budget of the new government they and opposition parties said came on the diktat of International Monetary Fund in turn of a $6bn bailout package. (Anjum Naveed/Associated Press)

KARACHI, Pakistan — 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 $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% of its population, crushing trade deficits and a hefty defense budget.

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