PTI divided as PPP joins the chorus against tax amnesty scheme

Govt feels ditched after Dar claimed PTI assured it would support the bill


Shahbaz Rana/our Correspondent January 02, 2016
Govt feels ditched after Dar claimed PTI assured it would support the bill. PHOTO: FILE



After initially supporting the government’s tax amnesty scheme through backdoor channels, the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf now seems divided over the issue, as the Pakistan Peoples Party joins the chorus against the controversial move.


The government, after getting an assurance from the PTI, decided to introduce a bill in parliament instead of implementing the Voluntary Tax Compliance Scheme through a presidential decree, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said on Friday. He said the government dropped the plan to promulgate the presidential ordinance after getting a call from ‘a senior and honourable PTI leader’.

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But soon after the bill was tabled in the National Assembly on Friday, PTI Chairman Imran Khan termed the scheme ‘a tax on honest people’ and announced his party would vehemently oppose it. This irritated Dar who feels he has been ditched by PTI, finance ministry officials told The Express Tribune. The government enjoys numerical strength in the National Assembly and can get the bill passed even if all parties in the lower house join hands against it. But it is worried about the political cost it will have to pay due to opposition from all segments of society to the amnesty scheme, the officials said.

PPP Senator Saleem Mandviwalla on Saturday also announced that his party would oppose the amnesty scheme.

“I made a call to Dar after learning that the government was considering promulgating an ordinance to implement the scheme,” PTI MNA and financial wizard Asad Umar told The Express Tribune. He said he had urged Dar not to promulgate an ordinance but said this did not mean the PTI would “blindly accept the government’s bill”.

“The PTI will not accept the scheme in its present shape but we are not all together rejecting it,” Umar said without saying which aspect of the scheme his party objects to.

However, sources in the PTI said newly-elected MNA Jehangir Tareen has advised Imran to reject the bill altogether. Tareen was not available for comments.

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The PTI issued a statement on Saturday saying it had serious reservations over the amnesty scheme and it would submit recommendations for improving the tax net. “The PTI will examine the entire scheme and come forward with its proposals to improve the entire system,” it said.

Umar said a committee of PTI’s parliamentary representatives has been constituted to come up with recommendations on the bill by Monday. The committee, which includes both Umar and Tareen along with Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Shireen Mazari and Senator Nauman Wazir will meet today (Sunday), a senior PTI official said.

According to Umar, the committee will present its recommendations to the PTI chief, who will then share the party’s stance in the meeting of the parliamentary panel of finance convened for Tuesday. The decision to review the amnesty scheme and give input reflects a change in PTI’s approach against the backdrop of criticism that it has done nothing but stage protests over the last two and half years.

But the party’s changing stance has put three men – Finance Minister Dar, Asad Umar and All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajiran (APAT) Secretary General Naeem Mir, who is also a PTI office-bearer – in an awkward position. Mir was among the traders’ representatives who had negotiated the scheme with the government.

Immediately after Imran’s statement, Mir briefed PTI’s parliamentary leaders in the Parliament House. Sources said Tareen took a position against the amnesty scheme and at one stage he and Mir exchanged harsh words.

In a news conference on Saturday, Mir appealed to all opposition parties to hear them before rejecting the government-sponsored bill. “The opposition parties have turned a purely economic issue into a political one,” he said.

To a question, Mir said if the PTI opposed the scheme, he would stand with his fellow traders. “There are 3.5 million traders in Pakistan and only 125,000 file income tax return. If the scheme is implemented, at least one million traders will become taxpayers, doubling the tax base,” he said.


Published in The Express Tribune, January 3rd, 2016.

COMMENTS (7)

Ahmed | 6 years ago | Reply for your info abdullah Asad Umar has not supported it
Saud Bin Farooq | 6 years ago | Reply @abdullah: “I made a call to Dar after learning that the government was considering promulgating an ordinance to implement the scheme,” PTI MNA and financial wizard Asad Umar told The Express Tribune. He said he had urged Dar not to promulgate an ordinance but said this did not mean the PTI would “blindly accept the government’s bill”. Please read the article prior ranting about it..
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