Tuesday, September 29, 2015

State Aristocracy (ریاستی اشرافیہ) being promoted in Pakistan

Patron Islamabad Chamber of Small Traders Shahid Rasheed Button says State Aristocracy is being promoted in Pakistan.

Here is the story published in Pakistan Observer of September 21, 2015.

Bank tax dubbed as irrational

Monday, September 21, 2015 - Islamabad—Patron Islamabad Chamber of Small Traders Shahid Rasheed Button Sunday said withholding tax (WHT) on bank transactions will never be acceptable to majority of the businessmen which are dubbing it as illogical and fiscal terrorism.

WHT is inconsistent with the ground realities therefore it must be reviewed and made acceptable as it is not being practiced anywhere in the world in the current rough form, he said.

Traders would be left with no option but to accept bank tax if it is slightly modified and influential tax evaders as well as major defaulters are taken to task before squeezing commoners and middle-class businessmen, said Shahid Rasheed But.

He said that tax compliance in Pakistan will remain one of the lowest in the world unless the ratio of direct taxes in increased from the current 25 percent while reliance on withholding agents is reduced.

Flawed taxation has benefitted nobility and continue to punish poor which has pushed million below the poverty line fanning social problems and militancy.

He said that SRO culture which is against the clause 77 of the constitution is blocking development while absence of any major political party which can raise voice against tax thefts, merciless wastage of national resources, promotion of state aristocracy and social justice which is unfortunate.

Pakistan will never prosper unless just justification of wealth is ensured through a justified tax system and elite start paying their share in the national development.

Here is the link to the news story: http://pakobserver.net/detailnews.asp?id=273507

Sunday, September 20, 2015

What the political parties are doing in hospitals!

Pakistan is a criminally horrible state. Read the whole story, published in The Express Tribune on September 15, 2015:

Minister directs hospitals to remove political parties' offices

KARACHI: Sindh health minister Jam Mehtab Dahar has directed the managements of all public hospitals in the city to remove the offices of political parties from their premises, ordering them not to take any pressure while taking action against them.

The major public hospitals, including Civil Hospital, Karachi (CHK), Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, National Institute of Child Health and National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases, until now, housed the offices of various political parties that enjoyed influence in the area where the facility was located.

“These should be hospitals, not offices of political parties,” he directed the officials. The minister has also asked them to immediately remove political slogans, banners, pamphlets and other such materials from these institutions.

Most of the time, the paramedical staff affiliated with these political parties harass doctors and is involved in different administrative matters. “They threaten the doctors when a complaint is registered against them. The administration, on the other hand, doesn’t take any action because of their political support,” said a doctor at CHK, who wished not be named.

Appreciating the health minister’s orders, the doctor said that it will also be beneficial for patients. “They charge money from needy patients and also occupy some rooms in the hospitals,” he added. “It is the prime responsibility of public hospitals to provide better facilities of treatment to patients, who should feel comfortable when they visit the facilities,” said Dahar in the meeting.

The doctors, especially female staff of the hospitals, say that political involvement in hospitals creates a strange environment, disturbing the professional environment for them.

“The paramedics affiliated with political parties do not perform their duties regularly,” said a female staff of the JPMC, adding that graffiti on hospital walls creates an ugly atmosphere for staff and patients. The minister’s direction comes four days after a letter was circulated by the CHK medical superintendent, Saeed Quraishy, ordering political parties to vacate the premises as directed by the law enforcement agencies, with further intimation to the 61 Wing, Abdullah Shah Ghazi Rangers.

Link to the news item: http://tribune.com.pk/story/956857/free-from-politics-minister-directs-hospitals-to-remove-political-parties-offices/

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Pak polity – racing backwards

So to say, in about 70 years, the political gains Pakistan’s polity has been able to make are dismal! Pessimistically, it’s NOTHING! Optimistically, it’s merely the Constitution that itself came to be agreed upon about 25 years after the country’s emergence on the map of the world. That casts a heavy doubt on the credence of Pakistan’s polity. Politically speaking, things stand in the same mould now they stood on the first day. The final verdict on the quality of the Pak polity may thus be worded: The citizens still live at their own risk in a country which is consuming itself by its own pseudo-nationalist, religious, militarist rhetoric!

No wrangling, the fact is that no politician and no political party find the constitution and its provisions tolerable to their will and temperament; they trample them whenever they see any of it obstructing what they want to do or to achieve. Not only that, they make use of it against its spirit; amend it at their will; or suspend it whenever they do not need it; ignore it when it doesn’t serve their purpose; and validate any amendments stuffed into by the military dictators. To the Paki politicians, the constitution is like a toy!

The latest example in this regard is the ruling party’s attempt to weaken and tame the higher courts whose newly obtained sort of independence proves to be a thorn in their heart. One parliamentary committee is already busy formulating such proposals which may help cut the judicial panel down to size. No doubt, all the parliamentary parties will be on the same page to bring the judges back into their pockets. Hopefully, if the civil society organizations especially lawyers fail to stop this onslaught of politicians against the judiciary, once again there will emerge judges of compliant character inside the High Courts and Supreme Court. There is one more hurdle to it; it’s the Supreme Court itself, which may send back the amendment (thus passed) to the parliament for review, if it does not find sufficient grounds to annul the same.

Hence, one very important gain obtained by the citizens of Pakistan, i.e. sort of independent judiciary, which is in fact an essential part of the constitutional scheme for the country to run, is going to be lost to the politicians’ lust for absolute power. That speaks volumes about the state of the polity in Pakistan! That leaves no hope alive that the Paki politicians and political parties will ever learn one or two things. How unfortunate! After about 7 decades they are still intent upon running a country of more than 180 million citizens like a principality! Everything, be they moral or social values, or rules and laws, is like something they must break and trash in their Ashraafist vein. That’s their way!

In 2013, for the first time one civilian government completed its constitutional tenure, general elections were held and a new government sworn in. No doubt, it should be a matter of routine in a democracy, not something both notable and noticeable; however, given the Pakistan’s political history where no civilian government was allowed to rule for its full tenure, it’s a Herculean achievement. In the midst, another event of unprecedented magnitude and significance took place: a usurper general was brought to the court for the highest crime allegedly committed by him, i.e. of suspending the constitution of the country; the case is sub judice. Both of these happenings may be overlooked or underestimated in the heat of the moment; which otherwise must be reckoned as the steps forward, no matter how small, as far as political evolution of Pakistan is concerned.

It is in the above-discussed context that both Inquilabi and Azadi Dharnas which took the capital sort of hostage this August need to be seen and explained. Whatever both of these parties, i.e. Pakistan Awami Tehreek of Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf of Imran Khan, and their allies, in or out of the state, aim to achieve and for that to achieve whatever they do and are doing need to be weighed against the gain of political evolution for Pakistan. Will that especially what the PTI is aiming at help Pakistan’s polity to evolve or not? Or, will it push it backwards? That’s the crucial question which must be answered by all having any concern for Pakistan!

Although the PAT concluded its Inquilabi Dharna at the end of last month, it is still not out of the game; and no doubt it has declared its parting of ways from the PTI and Imran Khan, it may join the 30 November call of the PTI to stage another Dharna in Islamabad, and be back in the game. That’s the same politics like of which both have been playing in the month of August this year when they were planning their marches to move together and when they landed in the capital and played their tricks in unison, till the PAT left the capital late in October. Under the circumstances, it may be conjectured that they may join hands again. That means the race to the corridors of powers is intact, and that there is no doubt about it this struggle is non-political.

How this struggle for power fares vis-à-vis the political evolution of Pakistan is the real problem to be dealt with! In addition, regardless of the apprehensions of majority of political analysts about the sponsored nature of the PAT and PTI’s offensive struggle, it may be suggested that what is more important is not who is behind them but what impact they are having and may be having in future on the political evolution of Pakistan. As to this, the writer’s considered opinion goes like this: The way PAT and PTI are conducting their fight is certainly impacting the polity of Pakistan extremely negatively: first, it’s distracting and confounding the constitutionalities; and second, it’s presenting no competitive challenges to other political parties including the ruling ones in a positive sense to move forward, it’s detracting them instead. That’s pushing the Pak polity race backwards!

Note: This article was completed on November 19, and was originally posted on November 27, 2014.

Monday, September 7, 2015

PML-N’s Bhatta or withholding tax

It seems the present dispensation of PML-N believes in no principles of taxation. It’s just there to extort whatever amount of taxes the Federal Board of Revenue may extort from the citizens in the form of bribes and in the name of taxes: of course, for itself as well as for the government.

However, the principles of taxation, the PML-N may be supposed to believe in, manifest themselves in the measures it announces in the budget and then obtains their approval from the parliament. That much is least controversial; what is controversial is the way the new taxes are conceived and implemented. As a rule, it’s the income or the consumption which is universally taxed. Also, the just taxation is not spending-driven, which certainly is the case as far as the PML-N government’s economic policies are concerned.

No doubt, there are countless examples available wherein arbitrary taxation was made recourse to; such as the medieval hearth tax, sort of a property tax. But, in the past they were no representative governments; that’s why they could afford arbitrary taxation policies. The question is whether PML-N, a democratically elected government, can afford such arbitrary taxation like the present withholding tax of 0.3 % on all the banking instruments, which will automatically increase to 0.6 % after September 30! Or it’s making a farce of the principle of “No taxation without the representation!”

It needs to be noted here that how come that only the traders have the courage  to espouse the cause of protesting against this arbitrary tax; doesn’t this withholding tax affect other low- and middle-income strata of society! For instance, the salaried persons, or pensioners, widowers, ordinary savers, whose earnings do not make a taxable income. All such citizens are being victimized only because on any day when they deposit or withdraw or transfer an amount of more than Rs.50, 000, they lose 0.3 % of their precious money! These citizens are not part of the protests against this Bhatta tax. They must be! Also, according to various reports the imposition of withholding tax has caused a massive reduction in the bank-deposits.

How blindly the banks operate in Pakistan the Finance Minister, Ishaque Dar has already admitted; he told that banks illegally and unjustly deducted the 0.3 % tax on all the banking instruments regardless of the fact that which ones belonged to the Filers and which to the Non-Filers. Apart from this mismanagement, the 0.3 % withholding tax is arbitrary, unjustified and has no grounds in the principles of taxation. It’s a Bhatta, at best; like the earlier one on the cash withdrawals.

Instead of putting the burden of failure on the shoulders of the FBR which according to a report of the Tax Reforms Commission is collecting only 5 % of the total income tax, the 95 % coming through withholding agents or voluntary payments. Thus the government has actually penalized those who use the banking channels.

Let any tax-expert tell what the nature of this withholding tax is! Is it on income, or is it on consumption? Or the PML-N has found another unique source of easy tax-collection, i.e. bank transactions? Better the PML-N government withdraws this Bhatta and focuses its energies on reforming the administration of tax-collection in the FBR. It is in the long-term interest of the state of Pakistan also.

It’s for the FBR to collect taxes including other taxes from the citizens who earn a taxable income. It’s not through the banks that a government collects such taxes which it fails in collecting via its tax-collector, i.e. FBR. PML-N, do not fail your government! Collect the taxes legally and principally!

Note: An edited version of this article was published in Dawn of August 10, 2015.
Here is the link: http://www.dawn.com/news/1199497/deviation-from-tax-principles