ISLAMABAD: The Opposition in the National Assembly on Thursday outright rejected the government’s tax amnesty scheme announced in the budget 2018-19.

However, it is expected that the budget will be passed by the lower house of parliament on Friday (today) for which members of treasury benches have been asked to ensure their presence in the maximum number.

During a budget debate in the house, Leader of the Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah and another Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Syed Naveed Qamar termed the amnesty scheme a “move to facilitate the already rich people and further suppress the poor”.

The opposition members also staged a walkout from the house, but later they joined the session after an interval of an hour.

Budget likely to be passed today

“If relief is given to tax evaders, what crime has been committed by the taxpayers who have not been facilitated in the budget,” Mr Shah said.

He said the opposition rejected the budget proposals, especially the tax amnesty scheme and petroleum levy which, according to him, would play havoc in the country once the budget was passed by the National Assembly.

Mr Shah also presented separate reports of the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly in the house and said the committee had got recovered over Rs318 billion during the last four years.

Mr Qamar said before this scheme, some nine other tax amnesty schemes had been introduced in the country in the past and all remained unsuccessful. “I don’t think that the new one will be a successful story,” he added.

He said the government had imposed Rs20 to 30 petroleum levy on per litre petrol and diesel which would cause inflation in the country.

Mr Qamar said the budget had not given across-the-board relief to the masses, especially to the common man.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Dr Shireen Mazari recalled her party stance that the government should have not announced budget for the whole financial year because it was about to complete its five-year term this month. “The budget will be a liability on the next government,” she added.

Dr Mazari said due to faulty policies of the government, the country could be blacklisted by the UN’s Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

She said the government has failed to solve problems of electricity loadshedding and water shortage.

S. A. Qadri of Muttahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) said the government had made discrimination in the budget for tax filers and non-filers.

He said a non-filer could not purchase a car and property of over Rs4 million. “This is against the basic rights of citizens of Pakistan safeguarded in the Constitution,” he added.

The government, he said, did nothing in the budget to collect agriculture tax.

Later, Sahibzada Tariq Ullah of the Jamaat-i-Islami, Sarwar Khan of the PTI, Syed Ali Raza Abidi of the MQM also spoke on the floor of the house and criticised the budget. They also talked about an increase in circular debt from Rs500 to Rs800 billion under the watch of the present government.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2018