ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Thursday decided to mount a robust campaign to pursue big tax defaulters in order to net the much-need cash for the kitty.
In another major decision, the cabinet decided to formulate a comprehensive policy for a permanent solution of the issue of nearly 2.5 million registered and illegal Afghan refugees living in Pakistan till June 2019.
While discussing the ongoing reforms programme in the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), the cabinet also approved to move against top 100 tax defaulters in the country.
With Prime Minister Imran Khan in the chair, the federal cabinet took up a heavy agenda consisting of 13 items related to various ministries and divisions.
Later, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry briefed the media about the decisions taken by the cabinet.
Chaudhry said the government had completed the first phase of the implementation of the proposed reforms in the FBR and added next week Finance Minister Asad Umar would present details in this regard at a news conference.
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"A massive operation will be conducted against top 100 defaulters of the FBR," Chaudhry informed, adding, "While implementing reforms and accountability initiatives, the government will not be blackmailed at the hands of mafias."
"Pakistan has two options. Either to continue with the already prevailing status quo or to move forward and resolve the issue once for all," Chaudhry said while informing about the decision on Afghan refugees.
He said legal stay limit of the Afghan refugees will end in June 2019 and it has been decided to formulate a comprehensive policy in this regard before the expiry of this stay term.
Giving statistics, he said there are some 2.5 million Afghan nationals in the country -- including over 0.8 million who hold Afghan citizenship cards but living in Pakistan, nearly 1.4 million POR card holders and another 0.5 million undocumented Afghan refugees.
"Pakistan is treating all the refugees as per the international conventions," he said.
The cabinet also approved to proscribe Al-Rehman Welfare Trust Origination (RWO) which was earlier placed on the US Office of Foreign Assets Control's Specially Designated Nationals List (SDN).
"The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Department of the Treasury administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on US foreign policy and national security goals against targeted foreign countries and regimes, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, those engaged in activities related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other threats to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the United States," says the US Department of the Treasury website.
A senior interior ministry official said that RWO has been proscribed under Section 11-B of the Anti-Terrorism Act.
"The decision has been taken after due diligence. Their activities were under the radar of the intelligence agencies for the last one year," he said.
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He said on the patron of the federal capital, a massive anti-encroachment drive will also be initiated in Karachi to retrieve land belonging to the KPT and railways.
He said Infrastructure Development Company in Karachi will be made functional and added the federal government would own and develop Karachi as was promised by the PTI before coming to power.
He said the cabinet also decided to further strengthen the Right to Information Act.
"Transparency in government policies and governance is interlinked with strengthened right to information laws," he said, adding, "Better laws will strengthen democracy in the country."
He said federal right to information law was relatively weaker.
While, he said, tax exemptions for erstwhile Fata and Pata have been extended for another next five years -- up to June 2023.
Chaudhry said the prime minister has once again called upon ministers that they should make and implement pro-poor policies and include rich people to pay their part for society.
He said the Minister for Information Technology had been asked to implement the government's plan on e-government in offices and ministries to save resources spent on the stationary.
Talking about tourism, Chaudhry said that prime minister will himself head taskforce on tourism and a vibrant tourism policy will be formulated and beaches and coastal areas would be developed to attract tourism.
Chaudhry clarified that the recently formed content committee’s mandate was to just check video content in government advertisements as recently a PTM leader was shown in an advertisement released by the Punjab government in connection with security arrangements in Muharram.
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To meet the FATF demands, Chaudhry said Mansoor Hussain Siddiqui has been appointed as director general, financial monitoring unit of the State Bank of Pakistan while Justice Abdur Rauf has been appointed as chairman wage board.
Giving details about the challenges being faced by the government in the power sector, Minister for Power Omar Ayub said currently there was a crisis-like situation in the power sector due to poor policies of the past government.
Ayub said the previous government did not pay attention to the electricity transmission system and added due to this countrymen faced loadshedding soon after the PTI came to power.
He said non-recovery of cost of total electricity generated and transmitted, circular debt, delayed tariff, and non-reflection of subsidies being provided in the energy sector complicated the situation.
“We have capacity to transmit only 19,500 megawatts of electricity due to outdated transmission system,” he said adding distribution companies were not working efficiently.
He said the incumbent government, forced by such circumstances, had increased gas prices. “Even in today’s meeting, the prime minister repeatedly directed ministries to formulate pro-poor policies.”
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