Question of representation: Gilgit-Baltistan lawyers say taxes not to be imposed on locals

Urge Federal Bureau of Revenue office be closed in region

Shabbir Mir September 21, 2015
Urge Federal Bureau of Revenue office be closed in region. PHOTO: FILE


Lawyers in Gilgit-Baltistan have asked the federal government to close the office of Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) in the region as functions of the department in a “disputed territory” is illegal and against the wishes of locals.

“Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad has declared G-B a disputed territory linked with the Kashmir issue,” said G-B Bar Council Vice Chairman Advocate Shehbaz Khan at a news conference at Gilgit Press Club on Monday. “It is therefore unlawful for the federal government to allow the board to collect taxes whatsoever in G-B.” Shehbaz added the remarks calling G-B a disputed territory were recently made by the foreign ministry.

“Imposition of general sales tax, excise duty, withholding tax, income tax and customs duties by FBR through the department under it, like customs and income tax, is totally unconstitutional,” he said. The lawyer added taxes cannot be imposed on people of an area that lacks representation in Parliament.

It was also said the region is ignored when it comes to major projects. Shehbaz said the federal government signed 49 memorandums of understanding with China for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor but not even a single one is mentioned in the official documents for G-B, although the region offers more than 600 kilometres of land for the corridor.

At the news conference, lawyers said if the federal government wants the people of G-B to remain loyal to the country, they should give the region a status similar to the one the people of Jammu and Kashmir have enjoyed since 1948.

“The Federation of Pakistan is asked to insert amendments in the Constitution to give a temporary but special status to G-B so it can have a representation in Parliament till the Kashmir issue is settled,” said senior lawyer Malik Kifayat, who was also present on the occasion.

About the Al-Jehad versus Federation case, where a constitutional status was demanded for G-B, lawyers said the Supreme Court gave orders so G-B could elect its constituent assembly. The lawyers said they would make Ministry of Foreign Affairs a respondent in the case that was filed by G-B Bar Council and Supreme Appellate Court Bar and is pending in the Supreme Court.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd, 2015.


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