THIS is with reference to the letter ‘An irrational law’ (April 21). Personally, my prayers and sympathy are with the writer for the swift recovery of his father, but the law is usually above impassioned feelings. In the words of US attorney Christopher Darden, “The law has no compassion.
And justice is administered

without compassion.”

The letter has referred to sales tax on imports as being irrational and unintelligible without giving serious deliberation to the definitions. First, he has defined the sale as an exchange of a commodity for money, but he failed to comprehend that in the case of value added tax (VAT), the tax, though collected at every stage of the transaction during supply of goods, is actually paid by the end consumer only.

Second, the definition of imports taken is again unsound. The Customs Act, 1969, explicitly defines import as anything being brought into Pakistan, even if it is for personal use and not for business activity. By virtue of these definitions, the question of cellphone being for sale or import purposes becomes irrelevant.

The government has imposed a uniform 17 per cent sales tax on goods, though there are exceptions and variations as for the imported mobile phones for which special rates have been prescribed in the Ninth Schedule to the Sales Tax Act, 1990. This taxation is vital to meet the conditionality of the donor agencies, specifically the International Monetary Fund (IMF), for the revival of the stalled $6 billion loan programme.

The interesting aspect of this debate begins by noting that this tax is charged by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), responsible for deactivating the unregistered mobile phones.

The import duty on smart phones in Pakistan under rule 56 of Import Policy Order, 2020, categorically cites that the import shall be subject to the type approved by PTA and production of the certificate of clearance issued by PTA after ascertaining that the handset has a valid GSMA IMEI and is in the white list of Device Identification, Registration and Blocking System (DRIBS).

Pakistan Customs collects the levy as a withholding tax on behalf of PTA. Besides, this so-called indiscernible and unfathomable tax finds precedents in neighbouring countries as well, where completely built units (CBUs) attract 15-20pc customs duty in India, while the handsets attract as high as 22.5pc sales tax.

As far as the question of outfits being worn is concerned, the same, under the SRO 666 (I)/2006, empowered under section 219 of the Customs Act, 1969 (IV of 1969), and the Sixth Schedule in the Sales Tax Act, 1990, are exempt from Custom duties as well as sales tax on imports since they constitute part of ‘baggage’ under the Baggage Rules, 2006. This should be a sigh of relief for the gentleman worried about his clothes.

Arif Ashraf Kamboh
Assistant Commissioner, Inland Revenue,

JUDICIAL VACCATION: Media reports suggest the Supreme Court has recently announced a three-month summer vacation starting June 13. I believe we can do away with this tradition which was reportedly inherited from the colonial rulers when air-conditioning was not available and officials would shift to hill stations with their families during the summers. Now that we have air-conditioned chambers and court rooms, we may revisit the practice. The chief justice of Pakistan may find it proper to look into the matter.

M. Akram Niazi

RULE OF LAW: Preservation of the rule of law is essential for the progress of a country, and its execution is pivotal for sustainability, accountability, fairness and access to justice. No state can achieve peace without it and run smoothly. Every successful country in the world has progressed by following a set of well-defined laws. One of the main reasons behind Pakistan’s current crisis is the absence of this practice. If we want to progress as a nation, we should enforce the rule of law.

Muhammad Salal Haider

ACCUSED MINISTERS: Most of the ministers happen to be accused in various cases. It would have been better to first et them prove their innocence before giving them public duties. The courts should also speedily process their cases to eliminate possible abuse of authority as well as any attempt to influence the outcome of their trials.

Sarwar Siddiqi

WAR OF NERVES: Being at the helm in Punjab now, Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz must now focus on excellent governance to maintain his and his party’s political hold in the province. Only his performance will decide whether his nomination and ascension to the top post in the country’s most populous province are based on merit or on patronage. Besides, he can’t afford to stumble because the opposition’s rather aggressive campaign would target him for even the slightest oversight.

Muhammad Usama Shoaib
Rahim Yar Khan

Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2022



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