ISLAMABAD: A Senate panel will look into the issue of taxes paid by Bahria Town and give its opinion whether the details can be disclosed or not. The project is owned by real estate tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain.
A controversy over the issue surfaced in the house when Minister of State for Production Khwaja Shiraz, responding to a question about taxes paid by Bahria Town, said the law barred disclosure of information.
Senator Zahid Khan of the ANP had raised the question about taxes paid by the country’s largest real estate developer in the past three years.
The minister cited section 216 of the Income Tax Ordinance 2001, read with Clause (XV) of Rule 47 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business, 1988 which debars disclosure “in relation to any matter in matter of which there is a constitutional or statutory obligation not to disclose information”.
The reply, however, angered many members and Zahid Khan argued why the details could not be made public when statements of assets and liabilities of lawmakers could be made public.
Khwaja Shiraz said that details about assets of parliamentarians were published in official gazette under a law and pointed out that parliament had a right to frame more legislation.
Safdar Abbasi of the PPP said the law did not prohibit making public a tax related matter.
Ilyas Bilour of the ANP said: “We will uncover the whole thing”.
Raja Zafarul Haq of the PML-N said when the defence budget could be discussed in the house, why the details about a real estate tycoon’s taxes could be concealed.
Senate Chairman Farooq H. Naek referred the matter to the Senate’s standing committee on finance, which will see if the details could be made public under the law or not and submit its reply to the house. The Senate was informed that three officers of the National Highway Authority held responsible for the 2007 collapse of Shershah bridge in Karachi by the inquiry committee of the Prime Minister’s Inspection Commission were still working with the authority.
Communications Minister Arbab Alamgir said that disciplinary proceedings against officers, Altaf Chaudhry, Raja Nowsherwan Sultan and Mohammad Yousaf Barakazai, had been initiated and no action had been recommended against them in the inquiry report.
He said they were also facing criminal proceedings in the court of an additional sessions Judge in Karachi.
According to the inquiry report, the then NHA chairman, Maj-Gen (retd) Farrukh Javed, and former general-manager (construction) Col (retd) Tehisn ul Haq were also held responsible for showing completely irresponsible attitude.
The minister said that as many as 46 cases of corruption and misappropriation surfaced in the NHA during the past three years.
A parliamentary delegation from Afghanistan was welcomed by thumping of desks on arriving in the visitors’ gallery.
Members from different political parties said that parliaments of the two countries should play a role in further cementing the bilateral relationship, enabling the two countries to effectively counter the common enemy.
An interesting situation developed when Abdul Rahim Mandokhel tried to speak in Pashto asserting that it was his right.
The Senate chairman reminded him that under the rules the members can express themselves either in Urdu or English and permission of the chair was required to speak any other language.
He, however, allowed Mr Mandokhel to speak in Pashto to welcome the Afghan delegation. Two other members also made brief speeches in Pashto after that.