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Tax evasion, corruption allegations, and Qamar Zaman Kaira

December 13, 2012

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Election campaigns are approaching and coincidentally not one, but two troubles have unexpectedly sprung up into the hands of the ruling party as well as lawmakers belonging to all parties.

First came a report from a study entitled “Representation without Taxation” by investigative journalist Umar Cheema. According to the report, more than 60 per cent of Pakistan’s cabinet and two thirds of its federal lawmakers paid little or no tax last year, despite an estimated average net wealth of $882,000.

The report says, “According to the findings, President Asif Ali Zardari did not file a tax return in 2011 and neither did 34 of the 55 cabinet members including Interior Minister Rehman Malik. Of the 20 cabinet ministers who did pay, most made only negligible contributions, including Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, with 142,536 rupees ($1,466) and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar with 69,619 rupees ($716). The cabinet member who paid the most was state minister for commerce, Abbas Khan Afridi, who paid 11.5 million rupees last year ($118,677). Religious Affairs Minister Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah paid the least with 43,333 rupees ($446).”

Are these appalling figures justifiable in any way for the so-called system of democracy in Pakistan and its people? Is this not a shameful revelation for the Pakistani public who votes them into power and then depends on them for lawmaking, and even a bigger embarrassment in the eyes of the nations, whom we go back to begging for loans?

Another report revealed further more, “President Asif Ali Zardari also did not file tax returns. Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim does not even possess a national tax number (NTN). Railway Minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, who had recently announced $1 million head money for an Egyptian-American producer of a blasphemous film, did not pay income tax.” Is the former FBR chairman, Riyaz Hussain Naqvi, quoted in the report correct when he states, “This is a system of the elite, by the elite, and for the elite.”?

Next up came a blatant statement by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman Admiral (retd) Fasih Bokhari that the country was losing up to Rs7 billion to corruption each day. According to this report, “The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) believed that the NAB chief’s statement was quite damaging for the ruling coalition, particularly because the general election was approaching fast, sources said. That was why the cabinet meeting on Wednesday saw a heated debate on the issue.”

Isn’t it time that the PPP does in fact take blame for all the rightful faults that are being pointed out if proven true? If even after nearly four years the ruling party cannot get their act together and accept their mistakes and promise a commitment for improvement then do they have a right to still show their face?

Then there was a fight back by none other than Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, calling all the various barrage of corruption allegations ‘a deliberate and vicious media campaign against the ruling Pakistan People’s Party.’ “Yes, there is corruption, like any other country of the developing world, but to put its entire blame on the federal government or for that matter on the PPP is absolutely unjustifiable,” he said in reply to a question. He said the PPP had been targeted with similar campaigns in the past, but it bounced back by winning more votes.

Do Kaira’s assertions hold true in the year 2012 and more importantly will they hold true in the year 2013 – the election year?