HYDERABAD: Former Senate chairperson, Senator Raza Rabbani, has said that the increase in the rate of federal taxes, especially the recently-hiked property valuation by around 20%, without legislative approval is illegal.
"The federal taxes which this government [of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf] is imposing are illegal," he said, while talking to the media after a reception at the Sindh High Court Hyderabad circuit bench premises on Monday.
"These taxes, as provided in the constitution, can only be imposed through legislation and not Statutory Regulatory Orders (SROs) or executive directives." He went on to assert that such taxes were unconstitutional.
Last week, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) increased property valuation in 21 cities of Pakistan by an average of around 20%. The new rates for tax on sale and purchase of the properties will be applicable from February 1. Through this increase, FBR's property tax collection is expected to enhance by 15% in the ongoing financial year.
Rabbani, though argued that these taxes were illegal, did not respond when asked if his party will challenge these taxes in the court of law on the contention of illegality besides opposing them in the parliament.
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"But this was expected from this government," he lamented. "Because this government represents the big businesses which funded this party [PTI] during elections and now it is payback time."
He added that the 'mini budget', a reference to the Finance Supplementary Bill 2019, only provided relief to big businesses at the cost of middle-income groups, underprivileged groups and professionals who have been saddled with taxes and inflation.
"A day after the mini-budget, the government sent a clear message to the workers of Pakistan that trade union activities will not be accepted in the country anymore."
According to him, the next day after the budget, the federal cabinet enforced Essential Services Act in Pakistan International Airlines and Security Printing Mills, and trade unions were banned. "The message is clear. Big businesses are welcome but there is no representation of the workers or the middle-income groups," he said.
Rabbani also slammed attempts by the federal government to control the syllabus by setting up the National Curriculum Forum, arguing that the forum is also unconstitutional. "There is no provision in the constitution for such a forum."
He maintained that the Council of Common Interests (CCI) and the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination were the relevant forums to discuss uniformity in the syllabus. He said the state wanted to create a syllabus which helped control minds of the youth so that they do not challenge 'excesses' of the state.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) senator reiterated that conspiracies have been afoot to roll back the 18th Amendment. He contended that different articles in the constitution which relate to provincial autonomy were being circumvented by the executives.
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He added that the items on the Federal Legislative List Part II which were supposed to go to the CCI have not been transferred to the council. "There have been some judgments through which attempts were made to create grey areas with regards to the 18th Amendment," he said.
According to him, the federal government is also upset over the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award because Section 3A of Article 160 for the award stipulated that every new NFC should not be lower than the previous NFC.
"The Centre is feeling that its share in the funds is gradually decreasing."
Responding to a question, he clarified that PPP sticks to the principles of democracy and that they want the PTI government to complete its tenure of five years. "Their performance, their acts show something else but we want them to complete their tenure," he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 5th, 2019.
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