PML-N leader and former finance minister Mistah Ismail on Sunday strongly opposed the government’s decision to grant powers to Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) commissioners to arrest citizens including businessmen, calling it “unnecessary and a tool for harassment”.
A similar concern was raised by the opposition in the Senate earlier this week and demanded of the government to revoke the absolute powers granted to FBR officials for making arrests without warrants. Federal Minister for Law, Farogh Naseem, had assured the Upper House that the provision would be toned down.
The law minister had agreed in principle that it would be inappropriate to arrest a person prior to adjudication and said that provisions to this effect in the income tax, sales tax and customs laws would be reviewed.
Speaking at a press conference today, Ismail said the government's tax policies had already burdened the business community, "and now the arrest powers to FBR will further shake confidence of businessmen and it will pave way for harassment, which we are strongly opposed to."
He also highlighted that the government had imposed a condition upon taxpayers to submit total tax amount as “identified” by FBR commissioner. “Like, if the commissioner has asked a person his outstanding tax dues amount to Rs500 million, he first has to pay the entire amount before filing a review plea, which is totally unjust,” he said, adding that previously there was a condition to submit 10 per cent amount and avail the review option.
The PML leader said everyone knew once the money was deposited to FBR, it couldn’t be reclaimed.
Ismail said such conditions would not increase revenue, but would fuel anxiety among the business community.
The former finance minister said the FBR still had Rs 700 billion in income tax refunds, which they had not yet been paid.
He said the government had fixed Rs 610bn for petroleum levy, and the current indicators showed that about Rs30.5 would be further increased in petroleum prices, which in turn may further lead to a hike in the price of basic edibles.
He said that the IMF programme for Pakistan was currently suspended, while the World Bank also withdrew its $600bn and the ADB also froze its payment. He added that Pakistan's plan to get IMF funding restored through US talks was unfeasible and may have repercussions.
He also criticised the government for “failing to meet IMF targets in the last two years.” He said the G20 granted Pakistan $2bn exemption, but the government couldn't make the most of it.