By Owais Hadi:
Imran Khan-led PTI (Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf) in the recently held parliamentary elections has emerged as the 2nd largest party â€• gaining more than 7.5 million votes. It has been successful in forming the KPK (Khyber Pakhtun Khwa) government, a resource-rich province where law and order situation is getting worse by the day. Many of the natural resources available in Pakistan can be found here, but still, it is one of the less developed regions in Pakistan.
PTI won because they called for ‘change’; however, now it seems to be backtracking from its initial slogan of ‘Tabdeeli’. In the recently announced provincial budget, I was expecting the party to impose new taxes on the rich as the wealthy class in KPK includes feudal landlords who do not pay taxes because of the grey areas in the law created by a notification issued in 2002. It states “filing of agricultural income tax returns is only mandatory for those who own in excess of 50 acres of land or have agricultural incomes of more than Rs. 100,000.” This notification is in contradiction with Agricultural Income Tax Ordinance which does not provide any exemption of land from filing of agricultural income tax returns. Even a senior revenue official of KPK Provincial Government said that land owners of 12.5 acres earning in excess of Rs. 100,000 should file a tax return. Such grey areas in the agricultural taxation laws have been beneficial for large land owners who minimize their land holdings by transferring it in the name of their relatives, and ensure non-payment of taxes. These feudals earn millions, i.e. former Chief Minister KPK Ameer Haider Hoti ‘officially’ earns Rs. 4 million annually, just from the agricultural cultivation on 50 acres of land.
Although PTI got a short period to prepare the provincial budget, at least it could have proposed some changes in tax laws to nullify the notification allowing the evasion of tax laws. It could have proposed an amendment stating the compulsory filing of agricultural income returns by all land owners owning around 12.5 acres of land and earning more than Rs. 100,000 rupees. This was much needed because financial accounts of KPK budget states it is heavily dependent on “indirect taxes” and “foreign assistance” from abroad.
KPK in its Financial Year 13/14 aims to earn around 83 per cent from indirect taxes and receive a significant amount of foreign aid for developmental projects. However, this is not what we can expect. Parvez Khattak, KPK Chief Minister himself paid only Rs. 44,000 worth tax from his income of Rs. 2.2 million in 2010. 44,000 is just 0.5 per cent of his total income. Is this justifiable?
Political corruption is rampant; three Reserved Seats for Women in the National Assembly have been awarded to relatives/family members of the chief minister. Also, another ticket of an NA seat vacated by Pervez Khattak has been given to his son-in-law, Dr. Imran Khattak.
Khattak has also violated the 18th Amendment by appointing a 25-member provincial cabinet, exceeding the constructional limit of 15 members under Article 130, a direct burden on the financial resources of the war-torn province.
Furthermore, as far as I remember, PTI also claimed to introduce and implement local bodies within the 90 days. Does it seem to happen? I don’t think so. This is certainly not the ‘Naya Pakistan’ Imran Khan has been talking about. PTI has so far proved it was not prepared to run a country of crisis, and PMLN surely seems to perform better.