GUJRAT: Electric fan manufacturers on Monday shared their grievances with federal Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Sheikh about, what they called, the aggressive approach of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) with the industry over the past few months.

The minister patiently heard the delegation of Pakistan Electric Fan Manufacturers Association (PEFMA) that called on him at his Islamabad office, one of the participants of the meeting told Dawn.

PML-Q MNA Moonis Elahi, who had arranged the meeting of the business fraternity of his hometown, also accompanied the delegation.

The participants apprised the minister of the alleged harassment of the Gujrat business community at the hands of the FBR and claimed that houses of some businessmen related to the industry had also been raided and they had been threatened.

Minister says report sought on the matter, will take concrete steps

“To continue doing business in such circumstances when the businessmen were already paying due taxes has become impossible as a number of manufacturing units have been shut in the last couple of weeks,” a member of the delegation told the minister, adding that such harsh policies of the FBR might render at least 30,000 to 40,000 workers related to the electric fan industry unemployed as well as the network of dealers across the country.

The minister assured the delegation of his department’s support in steering the fan industry out of this situation. He was also quoted as telling the delegation that harassing the businessmen had never been the policy of his government.

The minister said he had sought a report on the issues relating to the fan industry and would look into them thoroughly after which concrete steps would be taken.

The delegation expressed its satisfaction over the meeting and lauded the role of Mr Elahi in taking keen interest in resolving their issues.

On Thursday, FBR Sialkot zone Chief Commissioner Tariq Chaudhry had also taken notice of the situation and announced an inquiry into the raids at houses of businessmen as well as threats hurled at them by the bureau’s officials.

An insider, while commenting on the situation, said that continuing with the harsh policies of raids, stopping the vehicles carrying consignments and threats to the industrialists even after reaching an agreement with the fan industry over sales tax, the bureau had placed itself on the back foot and the industry had a better moral standing. Earlier, the tax watchdog had been supported by the civil society in its hectic efforts of convincing the manufacturers to get registered in the sales tax regime.

As many as 100 manufacturing units had so far been registered in the GST scheme as a result of an agreement between the industry and FBR Gujrat Commissioner Zaigham Abbas, but violation of the agreement in terms of raids could invite departmental action against the commissioner, said an official privy to the developments.

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2020