When the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) raided the premises of Elan boutique, they wouldn’t have foreseen the beginning of a power struggle that would eventually see the involvement of Maryam Nawaz, daughter of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
She is said to have helped the boutique owner get her employees and a relative released from the custody of police though they had been accused of keeping tax officials in illegal custody.
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On her part, Maryam’s spokesperson, Moazzam Ali, has denied that she helped Khadijah Shah, the owner of Elan.
“Maryam Nawaz did not help anybody in securing the release of employees. She did not interfere in the affairs of the FBR,” said Ali.
The incident took place late last month when a team of the FBR from Lahore raided the premises of Elan, said people associated with the FBR.
Shah confirmed that the FBR people had raided her boutique but claimed that the tax officials harassed her employees.
The interesting aspect is that both the FBR and Shah are claiming that they are the victim but the boutique owner has got help from the prime minister’s daughter, who is her client. According to Shah, it was the second raid on her boutique in the last six months.
The FBR claims that Elan owes Rs80 million but Shah disputes the amount. The FBR people told The Express Tribune that Elan staff locked them inside the boutique when they went to take hold of their record and equipment last month. After that, they called the police for help.
The police reached the spot and got the tax officials released. The police also registered an FIR and arrested three employees of the boutique on charges of keeping the tax officials in illegal custody.
Shah acknowledged that the police had registered an FIR on these charges but termed it as being based on frivolous charges.
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She said after the police took her staff into custody, she approached PM’s daughter Maryam for securing the release of her employees. She confirmed that the police had released the staff and their bail was acquired from court the next day.
Owing to political intervention, the FBR could not register an FIR against the boutique owner. The FBR people were disappointed because of the release of boutique staff and their inability to take any concrete action against them.
Shah said Maryam helped only to the extent of securing the release of her employees but she was not interfering in tax matters.
She said it was justified to involve a political personality in the case, arguing that the “FBR is a corrupt institution and its employees are gangsters”.
On the other hand, Haroon Akhtar Khan, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Revenue, says the FBR’s policy is “not to harass people”.
“The FBR is trying to recover lost revenues,” said Khan.
He said the decisions to raid business premises were taken in extreme cases and the intention was not to hurt sentiments.
In the past few years, the FBR has been criticised for being too soft on tax evaders.
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“The political system has to re-establish its authority for collecting taxes,” said Saqib Sherani, former principal economic adviser of the finance ministry, while giving a briefing to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance on Tuesday.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th, 2016.
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