Senate demands withdrawal of tax
By: Mumtaz Alvi
ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Friday unanimously asked the government to withdraw what it called the totally unjustified tax on incoming calls from the overseas Pakistanis, claiming it was a ploy of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to earn billions of rupees.
Under this tax, the cartels of LDI operators would pay over-due taxes to the government, which runs into billions of rupees, the senators said. The treasury and opposition senators joined hands to demand the withdrawal of tax on overseas telephone calls and alleged the PTA appeared to be serving the interests of cartels of LDI (Long Distance International) operators. They warned this uncalled-for tax could ultimately lead to drop in remittances from the overseas Pakistanis.
Leader of the House Jehangir Badr could not help conceding that there had to be transparency and a parliamentary oversight of the extreme measure (PTA tax). He did not object to the legislators’ demand for referral of the matter to the House standing committee, which would report back in the next session along with its recommendations in this connection.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement, a key ally of the PPP government, staged a walkout from the House as a mark of protest against the tax, which its parliamentary leader Tahir Hussain Mashhadi called ‘Bhatta’ (extortion) from overseas Pakistanis, who send US $14 billion to Pakistan annually.
The treasury legislators belonging to the PPP, PML-Q and MQM seeking withdrawal of the increase in the tax said some officials of the Cabinet Division were behind this decision and warned foreign exchange inflow would deplete following this move. The issue was raised through a call attention notice by Mashhadi while Dr. Muhammad Farogh Naseem, Mian Raza Rabbani, Kamil Ali Agha and Mrs. Shirala Malik were the other movers of the notice.
Senator Mian Raza Rabbani rejected the initial claim of the leader of the House, who in his brief statement had said that the additional tax on overseas incoming calls had been imposed with the approval of prime minister and the government was expecting the income of 500 million dollars as a result of this increase. “The amount would be more than the Kerry Lugar Bill,” he had said.
Rabbani said telephone calls were becoming cheaper in the world and the people of Pakistan were being deprived of this facility by imposing heavy taxes.
Mashhadi said that the LDI operators were being provided more opportunity to earn profit despite the fact they owed billions of rupees to the government. He informed the House that 8.8 Cent tax had been imposed on each international incoming call.
Kamal Ali Agha of the PML-Q said that the PTA was introducing new methods to extort money from the overseas Pakistanis following in the footsteps of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) and corruption and embezzlement was the intent behind the imposition of this tax.
The only speaker from the opposition, the Leader of the Opposition, Muhammad Ishaq air trafficking in the country would get boost as a result of this decision and serious steps should be taken to resolve the matter.
Strong and logical arguments convinced Jehangir Badar not to oppose useful proposals on the issue and on this chairman Senate Nayyar Bokhari referred the matter to the House standing committee. The House would now resume its business on Monday at 4 pm.