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Govt to launch operation against tax defaulters next week: Fawad Chaudhry

28 September, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Thursday decided to launch an operation against the tax defaulters next week. “Next week a big operation will be launched against 100 big defaulters of the Federal Board of Revenue,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told reporters at a briefing along with Minister for Energy Umar Ayub after a meeting of the federal cabinet. “Things destroyed during the past 30 years could not be corrected within 30 days, however the things are moving in the right direction and the government is committed to protect the poor and force the wealthy to pay taxes,” he said.

The cabinet also decided to devise a comprehensive policy on Afghan refugees before next extension of their stay in Pakistan in June next year. “Out of 2.5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, two million are registered and 0.5 million are so far unregistered. As many as 879,198 Afghan refugees have citizen cards of Afghanistan but reside in Pakistan and 13,94,000 have refugee cards,” the minister said.

Fawad said the issues related to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) were being looked into and Mansoor Hussain Siddiqui has been appointed director general of the newly formed Financial Monitoring Unit.

The cabinet also decided that tax exemptions for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) would be retained till year 2023. Fawad said the prime minister directed all the ministers to promote meritocracy and not give recommendations or receive recommendations from others. The prime minister also directed to increase the use of information technology to save precious resources and move towards the paperless governance.

Fawad said the prime minister told the cabinet that a vibrant tourism policy would be introduced and beaches, coastal areas and northern parts of the country would be the main focus of the development of tourism sites.

The cabinet also decided to further strengthen the Right to Information Act in order to bring transparency in governance and ensure citizens right to know. The minister said that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) RTI law was strong enough and there was need to strengthen the federal law as well.

Fawad said the cabinet gave approval for appointment of Justice (r) Abdul Rauf as chairman of the Wage Board Award which would finalize the award within 120 days to fulfill longstanding demand of the journalist community.

He said that an Islamabad-like anti-encroachment drive will also be launched in Karachi to clear the state land. Karachi Port Trust and Pakistan Railways land was the prime target of the encroachers, he said.

Speaking on the occasion, Minister for Energy Umer Ayub said total debt of Pakistan increased from Rs 15,000 billion in 2013 to Rs 29,000 billion in 2018. The previous government left the energy sector in crisis and the circular debt rose to Rs 640 billion, he added. He said the transmission system did not have the capacity to carry more than 19,000 megawatt of electricity and many areas faced load shedding and low voltage in the summers. The PML-N government set up power projects, he said, but did not make investment in upgradation of the transmission and distribution system and also did not arrange for the working capital for the energy projects set up by it.

Fawad said the distribution companies failed to recover 29 percent of the bills and an amount of Rs 220 billion was pending because of delay in tariff adjustment. “When the oil prices fell in the international market, the benefit of fuel adjustment was not passed on to the industry and revision of tariff structure was delayed. Net hydel profit of provinces was also not declared by the last government for one and a half years,” he claimed. “The last government left an accumulated financial burden of Rs 1,200 billion for the new government, including circular debt and subsidies for tubewells among others. The circular debt in gas sector has risen to Rs 150 billion,” he added.

Umer said the government would take steps to reduce line losses, end power theft, recover unpaid bills and tackle the crises in the energy sector head by decreasing the inefficiencies. To a question, he said the government could not change agreements with the independent power producers unilaterally as the companies could go to the international court of arbitration just like it happened in the past.

Umer said the government had to present the mini-budget to offset the expenditure that was not reflected in the budget estimates. He said policy of the government was to avoid putting burden on the working and labour classes and protect the small-scale industry.

Replying to a question, Fawad said the committee constituted regarding electronic media advertisements was meant to check the content and it had nothing to do with the release of the advertisements. He said that regarding issue of advertisements, he had sought proposals from the All Pakistan Newspaper Society (APNS) and the Council of Newspaper Editors (CPNE) and that a policy in this regard would be finalized after receiving their input.

Fawad said the governments in the past ruined national institutions like Radio Pakistan, PTV, PIA and the Pakistan Steel Mills by inducting their cronies. He said in the past a person driving a taxi in New York was appointed director general of the Radio Pakistan and a former minister got his wife appointed as an anchor in PTV at a hefty package.

He said he had proposed to the prime minister that leader of the opposition should not be appointed chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). He said the PAC would hold audit of the projects of the tenure of the PML-N and if Shehbaz Sharif occupied that post, it would become a futile exercise.

To a question, he said that the prime minister had issued directives to the Punjab chief minister to remove the bureaucrats responsible for the Model Town carnage from important posts. Moreover, he had called for filing appeal against the Lahore High Court verdict in the Pakistan Awami Tehrik petition.

Before the start of the briefing, the minister said there was good news for the nation as Saudi Arabia had signed three agreements of grants with Pakistan. He said the agreements were continuation of the prime minister’s visit to the Kingdom as the Saudi King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz and Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman had called for swift implementation of pledges.

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