A parliamentary panel has recommended an amnesty scheme for the owners of non-customs paid vehicles to pay the import duty and get their cars registered.
The Senate Standing Committee on Finance, headed by Senator Nasreen Jalil, took the decision on the recommendation of Balochistan senators. The suggestion comes on the heel of a government decision to confiscate all non-customs paid vehicles in Balochistan to improve law and order situation in the restive province.
It is common to see cars brought in from Iran and Afghanistan cruising along Balochistan’s roads sans registration plates or any sort of legal papers.
The panel recommended constituting an inter-ministerial committee to draft rules within a month to give effect to the amnesty scheme. The committee will consist of officials from ministries of industries, finance, commerce and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). Giving broader guidelines, the committee recommended waiving off penalties and charging duties lower than normal rates.
The National Assembly, currently debating next year’s budget, will consider the Senate panel recommendation.
The three senators from Balochistan have suggested resolving the issue, as the government’s announcement of confiscating vehicles has caused panic among the owners of these vehicles.
FBR Chairman Mumtaz Haider Rizvi told the committee that being an important stakeholder the commerce ministry was resisting a similar move initiated to legalise non-customs paid vehicles in Gilgit-Baltistan. The additional secretary at the commerce ministry said that the automobile industry was pushing to block the move, as it may hurt the local industry’s interests.
Rizvi said that currently no data is available on exact numbers of non-customs paid vehicles plying in the country.
The commerce ministry also opposed allowing import of ten-year-old used cars from existing five years. “We have to strike a balance between consumer protection and industry protection,” the official added.
The parliamentarians raised concern over unduly protecting the automobile industry. “Due to protection provided to the industrialists the consumers are forced to purchase low quality vehicles at very high rates,” said Senator Osman Saifullah of PPP.
Package for former rulers
The panel also unanimously approved an amendment in the original proposal of giving perks to former presidents and prime ministers. It recommended extending security to only “elected presidents and prime ministers.” The suggestion of excluding non-elected heads of state and the government was given by former prime minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, a former ally of General Parvez Musharraf.
It remains unclear whether the special treatment at the expense of taxpayers will also be given to former president General Pervez Musharraf.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 9th, 2012.
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