An independent legislator has asked the federal government to declare Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) a tax-free zone and allow duty-free import of essential commodities from China.
The proposal was floated by Syed Raziuddin in a resolution that he tabled during the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA) session on Thursday. Tax issues dominated the third-day of the 24th session of the house.
“The region should be declared tax-free considering the level of poverty and backwardness of the region,” said Raziuddin while speaking on his resolution.
He added that transportation cost skyrockets prices of essential commodities and most of the daily use items are brought to the region from down country.
Other lawmakers also supported the resolution. However, Speaker Wazir Baig referred the matter to a committee headed by the law minister to assess its viability.
The issue of tax collection and disbursement by the federal government was also discussed. Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) legislator Mirza Hussain pointed out that the federal government receives Rs26 billion in taxes from G-B. However, he lamented that very meager portion of that amount is given to the region.
“Steps should be taken to collect taxes at the regional level as it is being practiced in other provinces,” he stated.
In his reply, the speaker said that levying of tax was the domain of the G-B Council (GBC). The issue could be discussed in a joint session of the GBLA and GBC. He added that the governor should summon a joint session of the GBLA and GBC and take up the issue for discussion.
Nawaz Khan Naji, a nationalist member, said the biggest threat to the country was not any external force, but the corrupt rulers who are “plundering the national wealth and resources”.
The lone outspoken legislator said that the rulers should pledge to curb corrupt practices. He said that the overall situation of the industrial sector is on the verge of collapse, except for the “industry of Jihad”. He urged the government to take measures to help revive the industrial sector.
Law Minister Wazir Shakeel Ahmed tabled the child welfare and protection bill, which was referred to the select committee for review.
Baig maintained that the Accountant General Pakistan Revenues (AGPR) has failed to submit financial reports for the past two years to the assembly.
Rehmat Khaliq, a Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam lawmaker, said the importance of Defence Day has been overlooked by declaring it a working day. He called for dedicating the day to pay tributes to those who have rendered sacrifices for this nation.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 7th, 2012.