Residents of areas falling under the Chaklala Cantonment Board (CCB) were up in arms on Tuesday after receiving notices pertaining to payment of property tax.
Hundreds of residents returned the notices to the board in protest and threatened to move the issue to court if the board forces them to pay the levy. They termed the tax ‘illegal and unjust’ and claimed that the amount they were being asked to pay was more than what was due.
On Monday, the board had announced the imposition of property tax and issued notices to residents and shopkeepers asking them to deposit arrears from 2007-08 to 2013-14 till September 30 of this year.
The board said that a 5 per cent discount will be given to those submitting the dues before the due date and also warned that houses and shops would be sealed if the owners failed to meet the deadline.
Residents claimed the provincial government has yet to issue a notification in this regard and the board does not have any legal justification to impose the tax without a formal notification.
Muhammad Abbas, who owns and operates a shop on Mall Road, said he received a Rs30,000 tax bill against accumulated dues of Rs12,000. He refused to pay the amount till the issuance of a notification by the government.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Malik Riyast Ali, a member of The Citizens Forum — an informal group where residents of Rawalpindi interact and share common civic issues — said the previous provincial government had waived the property tax on five marla houses and plots.
He said the present government of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz at the centre had announced to impose the tax but has not issued a notification yet. “Under the Cantonment Act 1924, any property belongs to the cantonment board and it is given on lease to people, and thus it does not merit the payment of a property tax,” he said.
Most residents complained of inflated bills and called the move “an attempt to fleece the general public” in the guise of austerity. “In the stipulated time period, my bill should be Rs2,035, but the CCB has sent me a bill for Rs20,125,” said a shop owner, adding that he had deposited Rs34,194 between 1999 and 2007.
The head of the citizen’s forum, Aziz Ahmad, said no one will deposit the amount and would take the issue to court if forced to do so. “In 2002, a court had decided in our favour in a similar case and this time we will seek their help too,” he stated.
CCB Chief Executive Officer Dr Sajjad could not be reached despite several attempts.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2013.