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— File Photo
— File Photo

ISLAMABAD: With the government set to take a few more weeks to come up with a policy on drone attacks, the Senate on Friday recommended the setting up of a special fund for those who over the years have become victims of attacks by the unmanned planes.

The Senate has made 113 recommendations for inclusion in the Finance Bill--2013, which the National Assembly is set to pass next week. Although passage of the budget is an exclusive domain of the National Assembly, rules do allow Senators to make recommendations, which the assembly may or may not accept.

One of the recommendations, which Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said the government would seriously consider before passage of the budget, called for allocation of money to set up a special fund for victims of drone strikes.

From this fund compensation should be paid to families of the dead, people whose houses have been destroyed, medical treatment for wounded, education of children who have lost parents in drone strikes etc, the recommendation says.

“This will also send the right message to the outside world that we are serious in opposing drone strikes and that there is no longer any dual policy on drone strikes as in the past; condemning publicly but condoning privately,” the upper house wrote to the lower house of parliament.

The Senators also called for beefing up national security against cyber attacks. They said given the security threat posed by snooping and spying by the US through their secret agencies like CIA and NSA, funds should be allocated in the budget for a “cyber security strategy” and a cyber security task force should be created.

In the cotemporary world, they said, it was a grave concern requiring serious attention of the government.

ACCESS TO ACCOUNT: Another important recommendation made by the Senate opposes the government’s proposal to allow the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to have access to bank accounts.

“The move is too intrusive, against the privacy of individuals and prone to abuse and misuse since the FBR is itself susceptible to corruption, as stated even by the Chief Justice of Pakistan. It will diminish people’s faith in their own banks, almost similar to the loss of confidence suffered due to seizure of foreign currency accounts after the 1998 nuclear tests,” the recommendation said, calling for withdrawal of the proposal.

To nab real tax-evaders, the Senators suggested, the government should allow the State Bank to obtain details of Pakistanis who maintained secret accounts in Swiss banks and other off-shore accounts “because that was where the big fish have parked their money.”

They also called for keeping the lowest taxable income slab at Rs500,000 instead of Rs400,000.

About the annual increase in salaries of government employees, the Senate recommended 15 per cent raise in the salaries of employees in Basic Pay Scale 1 to 16 and 10 per cent in the salary of officers in BPS 17 and above grades.

The government has announced a 10 per cent increase in the salaries.

Thirty per cent deduction in government expenditure, announced by the new prime minister, must be reflected in budgetary allocations, said one of the recommendations.

The Senate also called for withdrawal of General Sales Tax.

Senator Dar, in his winding up speech, assured the house that the government would fully implement the Supreme Court’s order on GST.