ISLAMABAD: They have assets worth billions, yet they only pay a few thousand in taxes, if even that much.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, Punjab Chief Minister Shabaz Sharif, Khyber Pakhtunkhawa Chief Minister Amir Haider Hoti, Awami National Party chief Asfandyar Wali Khan, Jamiat Ulema Islam – Fazal chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Interior Minister Rehman Malik are some of those who did not pay a single penny in income tax in the period between 2004 and 2007.
The Express Tribune obtained the tax details of some of the country’s elected representatives from the Election Commission following a recent report saying that the assets of parliamentarians have registered a three-fold increase in six years.
According to the law, contesting candidates have to list the details of their tax returns for the last three years in the nomination papers.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s nomination papers show that while his assets are worth millions of rupees, he did not pay any income tax from 2004 to 2007.
The reason for this given by his spokesperson is that he spent most of the period in jail and thus did not pay income tax. Since becoming the prime minister, though, he has paid Rs82,000 annually, which is deducted from his salary.
Sharif, too, with declared assets in and outside Pakistan worth billions of rupees, did not pay anything to the national exchequer during the same period.
His party’s excuse is that he was in exile during that time. However, it did not share how much income tax he is paying as chief minister Punjab.Asfandyar Wali and Fazlur Rehman also did not pay any tax during the period between 2004 and 2007. Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, who also has declared assets amounting to billions of rupees, paid Rs8,000 in income tax in the three-year period and Rs10,000 as land revenue for the same period.
Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani paid Rs16,000 as income tax and Rs0.6 million as land revenue during the period in question.
Leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, Chaudhry Nisar Ali, and former Punjab chief minister Pervaiz Elahi, who both have assets worth billions of rupees, paid only Rs0.2 million in income tax between 2004 and 2007.
And Rehman Malik, while he did not pay any income tax, paid a measly Rs194 as land revenue in the three years.
The Express Tribune sent requests to the country’s main political leaders, including President Asif Ali Zardari and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, seeking details of their tax returns. However, none except Gilani responded.
Presidential spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said that the president is not bound under the law to declare his assets and tax details. The Federal Bureau of Revenue refused to give details either, saying it was not allowed to make public the tax returns of any citizen, including politicians.
Economist and former commerce minister Dr Zubair Khan said that an independent commission should scrutinise the assets and tax details of the country’s rulers. “It is astonishing to see these figures,” he said. “Our rulers have no right to ask people for tax since they don’t pay any.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2010.