Sindh MPA’s unregistered vehicle sparks debate in assembly

Excise and taxation minister stopped from taking action against the lawmaker


Hafeez Tunio August 27, 2019

KARACHI: The Excise and Taxation (E&T) Department has been running a campaign against unregistered vehicles plying on the roads for the past several months. On Monday, however, the issue hit home when a vehicle belonging to a lawmaker, parked inside the Sindh Assembly premises sparked a debate in the House.

The issue was raised by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf MPA Arsalan Taj during the question and answer session, when the E&T minister, Mukesh Kumar Chawla, was making promises of taking action against vehicle owners who were driving without the official registration plates. Taj drew the minister's attention towards a vehicle that was parked in the assembly's parking lot. "First of all, you should take action against the vehicle that is now parked in the assembly premises. Does any law permit someone to use such vehicles? If there is no law, why is this vehicle parked in our parking area?" questioned Taj. "I request the excise and taxation minister to summon officers and impound the vehicle from the assembly premises."

At this, Chawla grew hyperactive and remarked, "It's true. I have seen such vehicles with fancy number plates. He requested the speaker, Agha Siraj Durrani, who was chairing the session, to order the staff to close the assembly's gates so that they could take immediate action.

Some members from the Opposition bench suggested deferring the action for a day, but the E&T minister insisted on clamping down there and then. "They will not bring the vehicles without number plates tomorrow. This must be done today," he demanded. The speaker, however, ignored his plea, diverting attention towards another question.

Rusting away

Earlier, Chawla informed the house that around 71,000 number plates were ready in Karachi, but the vehicle owners hadn't come to collect them. "People are raising a hue and cry that we create problems in issuing number plates. I appeal vehicle owners to please collect these number plates so we can clear space for storage," he said.

PTI MPA Sidra Imran, in her supplementary question, said that of the 71,000 number plates, 7,000 are owned by various Sindh government departments and 8,000 plates belonged to the police. "Why are the police and government departments not collecting their number plates?" she questioned. The minister said that the CM has also taken notice of the issue and directed the respective departments to collect the plates.

When his attention was diverted towards excise officials who don't issue number plates, Chawla said, "We normally award the contract to a company for number plates. The contract has expired and we have to award a new one. The process is ongoing and will be finalised soon."

Motorcycle tax

Referring to the federal government's directives to the provincial excise and taxation department, Chawla said that the Federal Board of Revenue was repeatedly asking his department to collect the withholding tax from motorcycle owners. "They are asking us to charge Rs10,000 as withholding tax from filers and Rs20,000 from non-filers," he revealed. "These directives are issued only to the Sindh government," he said. "It does not apply to the other provinces," he added. "On our failure to impose such taxes, the FBR has deducted Rs7 billion from our account. We protest and will not impose such taxes on motorcyclists," he lamented.

Earlier in the session, PTI MPA Khurrum Sher Zaman raised the issue of the rise in the incidence of various diseases in the wake of monsoon rains. "Many people have lost their lives to the Congo virus and Naegleria. The CM is not in the house. Who will brief us about the government's efforts to mitigate the crisis?" he questioned.

Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho said that she will brief the house on the issue in a day or two after which the session was adjourned till today [Tuesday].

Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2019.

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