Tax amnesty laws laid before Senate

Opposition parties question timing of amnesty just days before budget

Our Correspondent April 13, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The government on Thursday laid recently-promulgated ordinances or laws envisaging the tax amnesty scheme in the Senate amid strong protest of opposition parties.

Opposition lawmakers were unified in raising objection on the amnesty scheme, unanimously staging a walkout when Mushahidullah Khan, minister for climate change, tabled the ordinances – The Foreign Assets (Declaration and Repatriation) Ordinance, 2018, The Voluntary Declaration of Domestic Assets Ordinance, 2018 and The Income Tax (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018.

They said that the chairman Senate had reserved his ruling on the issue after his predecessor raised legal questions over the hasty promulgation of the ordinances just before sessions of both the houses of parliament.

However, Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani allowed the minister to move the ordinances, saying that they had already been introduced in the National Assembly. He, however, maintained that he would release his ruling later.

Leader of the Opposition Sherry Rehman said that passing of an ordinance akin to money bill just two weeks before the announcement of the budget was unprecedented.

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She said: “The government moved ordinances without taking parliament into confidence. This is an unconstitutional, ill-advised and short-sighted move. We will not allow the government to make a mockery of the Constitution.”

“The government has some serious questions to answer. Is there really a need for an emergency ordinance? If so, why? We are constantly assured by the government that our economy is doing well. Does this mean that we are heading towards an economic disaster? The timing of this makes absolutely no sense,” she said.

Rehman concluded by saying: “It has been this government’s habit not to take the parliament into consideration on any major issue; be it on economy or foreign policy. It might be too late now but it would have benefited them if they took some time to understand how a democracy works.”

PTI Senator Azam Swati said that the government had moved these ordinances just two months before the completion of its term. This, he said, amounted to mortgaging the country.

He said through these ordinances, the government was helping corrupt individuals who had stolen national wealth. The Chair asked the lawmakers to submit their recommendations on these ordinances by April 14.

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As soon as opposition lawmakers walked out of the house, one of them pointed out the lack of quorum.

The sitting was later adjourned till Friday.

Earlier, Minister for Petroleum introduced the Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (Amendment) Bill, 2018. The House referred the bill to the relevant committee for review and recommendations.

Minister for Law and Justice introduced the Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Bill, 2018, the Specific Relief (Amendment) Bill, 2018, the Limitation Relating to Civil Revisions Bill, 2018, the Federal Ombudsman Institutional Reforms (Amendment) Bill, 2018 and the Federal Judicial Academy (Amendment) Bill, 2018. The House referred these bills to the relevant standing committees for their review and recommendations.


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