KARACHI: Responding to the recent flood tax bashing by several members of parliament, Pakistan Peoples Party central information secretary Fauzia Wahab said the tax imposition is necessary as the government needs to generate funds on its own for the rehabilitation of flood victims.
“We need Rs500 billion. Where will we get it from?” she said talking to the media outside Bilawal House on Wednesday, adding that reservations can be addressed through negotiations with coalition partners.
Two days after the Sindh government approved the imposition of the flood tax, the province’s legislators questioned the decision and claimed that Sindh was being victimised.
“We have no idea what the flood tax is and how it will be imposed. We fail to understand why Sindh and its urban areas have been selected for the tax,” said Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) parliamentary leader Syed Sardar Ahmed. “Besides, the government should have consulted us or provided us with details of the tax and its imposition process.”
Earlier, President Asif Ali Zardari had held a special meeting at Chief Minister House where the flood tax was discussed during which the MQM had taken a stand on not accepting it without consulting their party, he told The Express Tribune. “But later, no one consulted us,” Ahmed complained, adding, “Even though the president directed the chief minister to take all the coalition partners into confidence.”
Sardar Ahmed said that the president had assured the MQM that their reservations will be addressed in an upcoming meeting. “So we are waiting for someone to contact us.”
Babar Ghouri, the Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping, termed the government’s decision to impose a flood tax in Sindh unfair and said that the MQM will not accept it at any cost.
Besides the MQM, all the coalition partners supported the president’s proposal. Pakistan Muslim League-Functional’s (PML-F) Imitaz Shaikh told The Express Tribune that his party welcomes the decision. “This is a one-time tax and we should come forward and think that we are rendering services for the flood victims,” he said.
He maintained that the confidence of the people would be built with the tax’s imposition and it would also sensitise the international community to donate more for the flood victims. “We have mobilised our party cadre so that large amounts of revenue can be generated,” he said.
According to Awami National Party’s (ANP) spokesman Qadir Khan, this would be the first time in Pakistan’s history that industrialists and “big shots” would come in the tax net. “I think those people who oppose the imposition of this tax indirectly support landlords and industrialists who are tax evaders,” he claimed.
Also welcoming the decision, National People Party’s Arif Mustafa Jatoi said that if the flood tax is imposed, more than Rs2.5 billion would be collected, which will help the government in the rehabilitation of the survivors.
WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING FROM
Published in The Express Tribune, October 7th, 2010.