ISLAMABAD: Former president Pervez Musharraf declared up to Rs43 million in assets and paid taxes less than that paid by a federal secretary, sources in the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) said on Wednesday.
Musharraf’s spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry told The Express Tribune that the former president declared two houses, one in Islamabad (Chak Shahzad) one in Karachi, three commercial plots and 50 acres of land in Bahawalpur that he had acquired during his service in the army.
He said the former president paid Rs150,000 in income tax in the fiscal year 2007-08 and Rs15,000 in the early months of the financial year 2009 till the date of his resignation from the position of president. Musharraf paid an average of Rs12,500 per month in taxes, more than double than what PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif is reported to have paid in one year. The spokesperson further said that when Musharraf was holding two offices, he was getting one salary as chief of army staff and paying taxes on that account.
Since Musharraf was abroad for more than six months, under the Income Tax Ordinance he was now exempted from paying taxes in Pakistan to avoid double taxation. “Had the PAC also sought the details of the income tax paid by President Asif Ali Zardari and Mian Nawaz Sharif, it would have been a great service to the nation,” he said. A PAC member belonging to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, a staunch opponent of the former military ruler, had requested the FBR to show Musharraf’s tax records.
On Wednesday, the FBR chiarman brought the sealed file but no one in the packed room dared to take it.
The income tax law discourages the disclosure of tax details of taxpayers, except in selective cases. For example, the office of the Auditor General of Pakistan can seek information for audit purposes, said FBR chairman Sohail Ahmad.
Ahmad pointed out that he would only hand over the file to the AGP.
AGP Tanvir Ali Agha was not ready to receive the sealed file of Musharraf’s tax record and hid behind the law, saying he did not seek the details and the file went back to the FBR.
During this episode, four other members from the PML-N remained silent and did not press the FBR chairman to read the tax records. PML-N member, Zahid Hamid, was the law minister in the last military-cum political government.
“General Musharraf held a public office for nine years, so how come his income tax returns are confidential?” said an apparently perturbed Khwaja Asif. “When politicians are maligned no one raises questions, but when the tax records of General Musharraf are sought every official was hiding behind the rules,” remarked Asif.
“They (Auditor General of Pakistan and FBR chairman) are showing their loyalties to General Musharraf,” said Asif.
AGP Tanvir Ali Agha was appointed by the last regime and before that he was the secretary finance.
As nobody including the PAC dared to take possession of the sealed file, an angry Asif walked out of the PAC meeting, the first such instance since November 2008 when the committee started working.
PAC acting chairperson, Yasmeen Rehman, gave a ruling that the PAC would not press the FBR chairman to read out the details of the tax paid by General Musharraf.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2010.
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