Rabbani ‘challenges’ duty-free import of cars for ex-officers

Published September 25, 2022
Senator Raza Rabbani. — DawnNewsTV/File
Senator Raza Rabbani. — DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: After a brouhaha over a cabinet decision to allow duty-free imports of bulletproof vehicles for three- and four-star retired officers of the armed forces, former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani has called on the ruling coalition to nix its decision.

In a statement issued on Saturday, Mr Rabbani said he had already submitted a calling-attention notice to discuss the matter and seek an official response from the government.

The statement came after reports that senior officers of the armed forces would be able to import duty-free bulletproof vehicles of up to 6,000cc under a policy green-lighted by the federal cabinet but is subject to the premier’s approval. Faced with severe criticism from all sides, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) clarified on Saturday that it hadn’t issued a statutory regulatory order (SRO) to allow the import of tax-free bulletproof vehicles.

Mr Rabbani, a former Senate chairman, said the federal cabinet had got its priorities wrong in approving the facility at a time when some imports remained banned for citizens and the floods have put pressure on an already faltering economy.

He insisted that if the bulletproof vehicle imports were allowed on a perceived life threat to servicemen, it shouldn’t be restricted to only three- and four-star officers, as “the actual threat would be more vivid for those officers and jawans who were involved in combat on the ground”.

Meanwhile, in its statement, FBR denied issuing an SRO in this regard. However, it stated that the “The federal cabinet approved a decision in 2019 to allow such [a] facility, but no notification to this effect has been issued so far.”

An official source, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, told Dawn a notification circulating on social media had no legal status because it had no number. The purported notification carried the signature of FBR’s customs policy member Suraiya Ahmed Butt, who was appointed on March 19 this year.

The source said the notification’s status would be considered by the finance minister and the FBR chairperson early next week. “We can’t say anything right now about the status of the notification,” the source said.

The notification in question, dated Sept 22, 2022, said the “federal government is pleased to exempt customs duties, sales tax, federal excise duty and withholding tax on the import of bulletproof vehicles … for lieutenant generals and above on retirement by the concerned authorities”.

It said the facility was subject to a few conditions, for example, the tax exemption would apply to the import of up to two vehicles for four-star generals and one vehicle for lieutenant generals.

Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2022

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