The Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Accountability Bureau have arrested a number of senior officials of the Income Tax, Excise and Taxation (IT/E&T) department and the AJK Council on charges of corruption and financial embezzlement.
The officials were arrested in a raid conducted at the IT/E&T office complex after the accountability bureau issued arrest warrants for Commissioner Income Tax, Excise and Sales Tax Qaiser Iqbal; acting Commissioner Income Tax, Excise and Sales Tax Mirza Zulfiqar; and AJK Council Joint Secretary Qaiser Majeed on Friday.
The move, however, sparked protest by members of the IT/E&T department, who boycotted duties and staged a sit-in in front of the office complex. They maintained that the accountability bureau does not have jurisdiction to take action against the department.
A senior official of the AJK Accountability Department, requesting anonymity, said the arrest warrants were issued under section 35 of the AJK Ehtesab (Accountability) Act after the officials were found hindering investigations into cases with the accountability bureau in which they have been accused of corruption, misuse of power and embezzlement of million of rupees of public money.
He said that the arrested officials were earlier served three to four notices to respond to the allegations levelled against them of unlawful refunds and exceptions of millions of rupees, but they did not comply.
He said that during the raid, required official records pertaining to the advance payment of millions of rupees in a mega contract and other irregularities were also confiscated.
“We were compelled to arrest them,” said the bureau official, adding that the officials were “not harassed or disgraced in any way”. He, however, did no mention the number of officials arrested.
Pen-down strike by income tax department officials
The protesting staff accused the accountability bureau of harassing officials of the income tax department during the raid and announced to boycott duties until the removal of AJK Accountability Bureau Chairman Justice Hussain Mazhar Saleem.
A spokesperson of the protesting staff said the IT/E&T department extended “full cooperation” to the accountability bureau, “but in spite of that it arrested and harassed officials of the department”. He said that the officials’ arrest was unlawful as the E&T department is a subordinate organisation of the AJK Council and hence does not fall under the purview of the AJK Accountability Bureau. He accused the chairman of the accountability bureau of “intervening in the internal administrative affairs of the IT/E&T department”.
Non-gazetted employees disassociate from protest
The non-gazetted employees of the AJK IT/E&T department disassociated itself from the strike and termed it “unlawful”. Mahboob Raza, the interim president of the department’s non-gazetted employees, told reporters that majority of the employees are not taking part in the protest as only 20 to 25 officials of the department, out of the existing strength of over around 120, are protesting.
Raza alleged that IT/E&T department’s commissioner, deputy commissioner, Special Assistant to Commissioner Aasim Shoukat, Assistant Commissioner Muhammad Ashraf and the Mirpur-based Taxation officer were compelling the junior staff to protest so as to “conceal their corruption”.
He demanded a high-level probe into to unlawful refunds and exceptions of millions of rupees during the IT/E&T department’s incumbent commissioner. “The corrupt must be brought to task,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2012.