KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has requested the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) chairperson Shabbar Zaidi to refund the amount paid by the Edhi Welfare Foundation – the country’s largest non-governmental organisation, as customs duty on the import of vehicles.
In a letter to Zaidi, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, Shah said that the EWF had paid Rs180 million in taxes on the import of 150 vehicles during the fiscal year, 2016-2017, besides another 120 vehicles and 12 rescue boats imported in 2018. “All the imported vehicles have been converted into ambulances but the paid tax amount has not been returned to the EWF,” the letter states.
Moreover, the letter states said that according to Saad Faisal, the managing trustee of EWF, a 4×4 land cruiser, donated by a Pakistan-born philanthropist, to be used as an ambulance was also in the custody of the customs department. Shah has requested the FBR head to consider Saad’s request and get the vehicle released so it may be put to use.
Last week, a two-member team, including Saad, met the CM’s Special Assistant on Human Rights, Veerji Kolhi, who later forwarded the EWF’s request to the CM.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, the EWF’s spokesperson Muhammad Bilal said that his organisation has approached the federal government several times, but to no avail. “No one helps us,” he lamented.
“We have not been asked for the tax in the past,” said Bilal. “All the governments in the past have cooperated with us in view of the services our organisation provides to the people of Pakistan.”
Bilal said that the organisation has been importing vehicles for over 20 years. “It’s a huge amount we are being asked to pay. It’s a big amount for an organisation that works for the welfare of the people,” he added.
Asked about the vehicle in the authorities’ custody, Bilal said that the land cruiser was not being handed over to the EWF for the last four months. “We have had to pay Rs2.5 million extra as the rent of the yard and the container.” He explained that the organisation already has five such luxury ambulances that it uses in case of emergencies in hilly areas and during floods. “Other private luxury vehicles are being handed over but we are asked to pay the tax,” he lamented.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Kolhi said that the Sindh government supports and appreciates the Edhi foundation’s services for people. “It’s a charitable organisation,” said Kolhi. “This organisation even supports the government,” he added. “Taking taxes from charitable organizations like the EWF is an injustice.”
Criticising the federal government’s attitude towards the EWF, Kolhi said that over 1,500 vehicles were imported in the last 20 years. “But not a single penny was paid in taxes because this organisation has been exempted from taxes,” he briefed, adding that the CM has requested the FBR to refund the amount. “I hope the FBR understands and accepts the CM’s request,” he added.
No one from the FBR was available for comment.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 6th, 2019.