Have a heart Mr Finance Minister | By Zaheer Bhatti


Have a heart Mr Finance Minister

ONE got carried away and paid tributes to the new Pakistani Finance Minister for his uncanny nationalism, as he declared rejecting the IMF demands of raising utility tariffs which directly affect the common man; giving out his own vision of recoveries focused on sustainable economic growth, but alas only to discover that he was no different from his predecessors.

Instead of going after the ten million tax-evading non-filers he had identified by the force of law, prices of petrol, diesel, kerosene and LPG have hit an all-time high but the Government has the cheek to say that it had provided relief to the common man against OGRA recommendation as if the Regulatory Authority was an alien watchdog.

Cutting down on GST over petroleum products, has further benefitted the supply chain while the consumer will continue to bear the brunt as already translated into phenomenal raise in Utility Store prices of ghee, wheat-flour and sugar.

If plight of the common man was of any concern to the rulers they would have instantly raised the basic tax exemption from 4 to a minimum 6 lac rupees on sharp devaluation of the Pak rupee and eased their tax brackets, but the State Bank instead has ordered 15% tax deduction at source on income from Banks and national savings; removing the five lac annual dividend limit before subjecting filers to enhanced tax deduction from 10 to 15%.

This directly affects the law abiding investors; mostly retired public servants among senior citizens finding national savings their only safe avenue of parking their savings to secure them from grabbers including real Estate swindlers luring them through various means.

Far from taxing the non-filing investor in the national savings at 30% from the very start thinking that it would force them to become filers, little have you pondered that these would invariably be a veiled category of senior citizens you actually need to decipher from amongst parliamentarians, businessmen and Industrialists who would divert their riches to uncharted avenues of investment including undocumented real estate and or convert to the green bank; encouraging black money and money laundering, and in the process further deprive the national kitty of its precious little reserves.

It is patently unfair to tax a person in mere anticipation of income in a higher income bracket; a measure worse than the ones sought to be dictated by the IMF.

Finance Minister! You also, are trying to squeeze the already sapped filer who would tend to feel that becoming a filer was a blunder, which is likely to scare away prospective filers; thereby defeating your plan of enlarging the pathetic tax base of the country.

What is stopping you from forcing the ten million you have identified into the tax net, and why continue aiming at the soft target of the common man!

Instead of leaving this simple and often ill-informed common man to be exploited by the mafias promising them the moon in the fashion of fake housing societies putting out adds with nothing on the ground but virtual images portraying a dreamland for living and luring the poor investor looking for a cheaper shelter; with the government of the day failing to meet his basic requirement of a shelter as a citizen of the State, you are making them habitual borrowers under the smokescreen of programmes like ‘Ehsaas,’ etc.

With Imran Khan’s dream of fashioning an equitable State like Medina appearing shattered and frustrated in a system so deeply infested and torn between the haves and haves nots, where every new step required to set the equation right ends up further favouring the privileged; in a supposedly Islamic country which in over 70 years of Independence continues following the colonial law and is unable to construct an Islamic system of justice, surely something is inherently amiss.

The same is true of Pakistan’s economic policies making them compulsive borrowers dependent on Imperial donor agencies exploiting countries like Pakistan which have made no concerted effort to replace the colonial system with an interest-free Islamic economic order except catering to the so-called liberals claiming to service human rights and women’s emancipation by pedalling bills for their rights which will remain a piece of paper with no guarantee for implementation where Islamic laws inherent in the Holy Quran; a complete code of life cannot be despite granting rights to the female which no other religion in the world does. This at best called for ratification by the Islamic advisory council or the Federal Shariyat Court.

Groping for an opening I am reminded of a TV programme with a panel of business experts probing and examining presentations by start-up entrepreneurs with business ideas, and pledging seed money for those approved.

Howsoever naive it may sound, why does this country not create a similar caucus to examine the manifestos, development plans and feasibility studies; prerequisites of national productivity and earnings, of various political parties and either shortlist them for eligibility to contest the polls or nominate them to rule.

This may be close to picking a national government, but the cardinal question would remain as to who would bell the cat and comprise the Caucus; The Country’s Judiciary, its defence forces, some undisputed retired bureaucrats, Foreign Affairs and Religious experts; if one might suggest.

In my over half a century of media sojourn brushing shoulders with journalists like MajeedNizami, Mazhar Ali Khan, GM Asar, ZA Suleri, Columnists like Safdar Mir, Hameed Sheikh and IA Rehman, and poets like Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Sufi Tabassum, Ahmad Faraz, HabibJalib, John Eliya, Mustafa Zaidi, Nasir Kazmiand Ustad Daman, I have come away with the feeling that if these stalwarts could not set the tone for this nation which has gone from bad to worse, nothing can change except a bloody Revolution like the one caused by Imam Khomieni in Iran, or some act of God rendering proverbial justice, which appear to be the only remedies left.

—The writer is a media professional, member of Pioneering team of PTV and a veteran ex Director Programmes.

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