A cau­tion­ing note

Pakistan Observer - - FRONT PAGE - Si­t­u­a­tioner M Zi­aud­din

PRIME Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Ishaq Dar, In­te­rior Min­is­ter Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan, Pun­jab Chief Min­is­ter Shah­baz Sharif, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen­eral Ra­heel Sharif and the Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of In­ter-Ser­vices In­tel­li­gence (ISI), Lt. Gen. Rizwan Akhtar are all honourable Pak­ista­nis. Their pa­tri­o­tism is be­yond an iota of doubt. And their Pak­ista­niat is un­ques­tion­able. It is granted that their col­lec­tive de­ci­sion on any na­tional mat­ter would not be dic­tated by any parochial in­ter­est. And it is a given that they would al­ways keep the na­tional in­ter­est clos­est to their hearts and minds. How­ever, their col­lec­tive de­ci­sions on any na­tional mat­ter un­less tem­pered by the ap­proval of the fed­eral cabi­net in which sit rep­re­sen­ta­tives from all the four prov­inces be­long­ing to the rul­ing party and its coali­tion part­ners and en­dorsed by Par­lia­ment which rep­re­sents the col­lec­tive wis­dom of the en­tire na­tion would

per­haps make some Pak­ista­nis liv­ing in the three smaller prov­inces to won­der, not too un­jus­ti­fi­ably, whether or not the re­spec­tive in­ter­ests of their prov­inces were kept in mind while tak­ing these de­ci­sions by these five honourable, pa­tri­otic, fully com­mit­ted Pak­ista­nis har­bour­ing, un­doubt­edly, no parochial in­ter­ests; all be­long­ing, how­ever, to the coun­try’s largest prov­ince, Pun­jab.

Had it been a mat­ter con­cern­ing Pun­jab alone, that was dis­cussed by these ‘big five’ at the PM House on Tues­day no one would have had any rea­son to ques­tion the pres­ence of the Pun­jab Chief Min­is­ter at the meet­ing. But the mat­ters dis­cussed at the meet­ing were es­sen­tially na­tional if one went by the of­fi­cial hand out is­sued af­ter the meet­ing ac­cord­ing to which these had per­tained to na­tional and in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity, im­proved sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try and as well as in Afghanistan, ex­pres­sion of sat­is­fac­tion with par­tic­u­lar ref­er­ence to the re­cov­ery of Ali Haider Gi­lani, the progress of op­er­a­tion Zarb-e-Azb and re­turn of In­ter­nally Dis­placed Per­sons (IDPs). One won­dered why the rul­ing party or its coali­tion part­ners rep­re­sent­ing KPK and its Gover­nor were not present at a meet­ing which was dis­cussing progress of ZeA which cur­rently is in the process of clearing the ter­ror hide-outs in the FATA re­gion and the sub­ject of re­turn of IDPs. In fact one felt even the Chief Min­is­ter of the KPK should have been in­vited to par­tic­i­pate in this high pow­ered se­cu­rity meet­ing. And since the meet­ing had dis­cussed the over­all se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try as well as in Afghanistan one felt the rul­ing Party’s for­eign pol­icy ad­vi­sors and the chief ministers of Sindh and Balochis­tan also should have been in­vited to the meet­ing. But even if one were to ac­cord due re­spectabil­ity to the un­sourced, un­sus­b­ta­ni­ated and of­fi­cially de­nied re­ports that the me­dia cir­cu­lated and broad­cast af­ter the meet­ing one would have ex­pected a na­tion­ally rep­re­sen­ta­tive gath­er­ing at the Tues­day meet­ing for de­vel­op­ing a na­tional con­sen­sus on mat­ters of na­tional in­ter­est such as the Panama leaks. Here is the non-sourced, un­sub­stan­ti­ated, of­fi­cially de­nied story which ap­pears to have been cir­cu­lated by those who per­haps want the nat­u­ral turf-tus­sle between the newly sad­dled civil­ian ad­min­is­tra­tion and the mil­i­tary which has been mak­ing all ma­jor na­tional de­ci­sions at the GHQ for the last 65 years with­out any ref­er­ence to the Con­sti­tu­tional re­quire­ments, to de­te­ri­o­rate into a full-scale con­fronta­tion lead­ing to a 4th of July 1977 sit­u­a­tion: “he meet­ing was aimed at re­viv­ing civil-mil­i­tary re­la­tions fol­low­ing the Panama rev­e­la­tions. Army chief called for ‘across­the-board ac­count­abil­ity’ in veiled ref­er­ence to the Panama leaks. “The meet­ing was fa­cil­i­tated by Pun­jab Chief Min­is­ter Shah­baz Sharif and fed­eral in­te­rior min­is­ter Chaudhary Nisar as well as some Corps Com­man­ders and re­tired mil­i­tary of­fi­cers. “The army chief also as­sured that armed forces of the coun­try will fully sup­port ev­ery mean­ing­ful ef­fort in that di­rec­tion to en­sure a bet­ter fu­ture for our next gen­er­a­tions.” So, it was mainly a na­tional mat­ter that was dis­cussed at the high level meet­ing on Tues­day at­tended by five big ones but all be­long­ing to the prov­ince of Pun­jab. Such meet­ings at such lev­els should be avoided at all costs in the supreme na­tional in­ter­est. And any im­pres­sion that the lead­er­ship of armed forces was seek­ing ex­tra-con­sti­tu­tional role in the run­ning of the civil ad­min­is­tra­tion also needs to be shunned re­li­giously lest wrong sig­nal is con­veyed to the ter­ror­ists bid­ding their time to de­rail the na­tion from its demo­cratic path us­ing violence. Be­fore in­dulging in Panama pol­i­tics all those with vested in­ter­est must go through the laws of the land that gov­ern the na­tional econ­omy. Here is the lat­est po­si­tion of the Fed­eral Board of Rev­enue (FBR) on the leaks: The FBR mem­ber In­land Rev­enue Pol­icy, Rehmat­ul­lah Khan Wazir has said that the FBR is not legally em­pow­ered to open up cases of fil­ers and non-fil­ers be­yond six-year and five-year pe­ri­ods, re­spec­tively, for prob­ing the own­ers of off­shore com­pa­nies.

The rel­e­vant amend­ment in the law was made through the Fi­nance Bill 2010 for cur­tail­ing this pe­riod from 10 years to 5 years.

Most of the off­shore com­pa­nies be­long­ing to Pak­ista­nis were formed prior to these years. Also, global in­come of res­i­dent Pak­ista­nis is tax­able but not that of non-res­i­dent Pak­ista­nis. The tax­a­bil­ity has been done on the ba­sis of res­i­dency and not na­tion­al­ity.

There are two types of off­shore com­pa­nies. The first cat­e­gory is a com­pany where in­vestor has made in­vest­ment abroad af­ter payment of taxes. It is a le­gal com­pany. There is no law in Pak­istan which pro­hibits Pak­ista­nis from in­vest­ing in off­shore com­pa­nies. The sec­ond cat­e­gory is that the tax has not been paid or amount has not been de­clared in Pak­istan. There are three ma­jor in­come tax pro­vi­sions to deal with such un­de­clared in­vest­ment in­clud­ing sec­tion 111 and sec­tion 114 of in­come tax or­di­nance 2001.

The law em­pow­ers FBR to open up cases of last six years in case of fil­ers and five years in case of non-fil­ers to as­cer­tain whether res­i­dent Pak­ista­nis de­clared off­shore com­pa­nies in their wealth state­ments or not. But in both cases only those com­pa­nies which were es­tab­lished in 2011-2015 could be scru­ti­nized.

More­over, the FBR does not have tax treaty with Panama so the Board is un­able to seek in­for­ma­tion from the off­shore en­tity about the in­vest­ment made in the en­tity by Pak­istani res­i­dents.

There­fore, it would be very much in the in­ter­est of ev­ery Pak­istani in­clud­ing all state or­gans like the De­fence forces, the NAB, the FBR etc as well as op­po­si­tion po­lit­i­cal par­ties to ex­press their opin­ion on the mat­ter and/or make calls for tak­ing ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tions only in ac­cor­dance with the law of the land that gov­erns the na­tional econ­omy. One can make a po­lit­i­cal foot­ball out of Panama leaks but to be­lieve that these leaks would help the law to catch the cor­rupt would be too naive an idea, to say the least. .

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