GILGIT: The government of Gilgit-Baltistan on Monday claimed to have withdrawn newly imposed withholding taxes which had triggered a region-wide shutter down strike.
But the notice seemed to leave many traders unconvinced. “We kept to our word, the taxes have been withdrawn,” said Parliamentary Secretary on Interior and Law Aurangzeb Khan while waving a copy of the notification before journalists at a news conference in Gilgit on Monday.
All stores and markets in the region remained closed throughout the day on a call from traders associations who had declared the imposition of new taxes as illegal and tantamount to ‘murder of traders’.
The protest was triggered by the newly imposed withholding tax (advance tax on banking transactions over Rs50,000) which had been imposed by the federal government last week.
The news conference was also attended by Law Minister Dr Muhammad Iqbal, Special Coordinator to Chief Minister Rizwan Rathor among others.
“There is no justification for the strike now,” said the minister while referring to the notification.
The parchment read that “advance tax on banking transactions otherwise than through cash of G-B council Income Tax (Adaptation) Act 2012 is held in abeyance till further orders.”
“There are some elements, who are misleading the people, are not sincere with the people,” he added.
On Sunday, Awami Action Committee (AAC) chairman Sultan Raees told the media that “they were being burdened with additional taxes with each passing day which was illegal given the ambiguous constitutional status of the region.”
He added that the people are poor and the taxes would kill them economically.
However, after Aurangzeb’s news conference on Monday, the AAC leadership maintained that it was less than convinced about the government’s claim of withdrawing the tax. Raees termed it a farce, adding that their strike was against all taxes imposed from time to time and said they would continue their strike.
“There are certainly doubts on it [notification] so the strike will continue today (Tuesday),” said a trader while casting doubts over the notification, which he claimed was not clear enough to settle their demands.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 14th, 2017.