Tax amnesty plan cabinet approval deferred amid reservations

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet deferred the approval of the much-awaited tax amnesty scheme after some of the ministers opposed it, expressed their reservations and sought further clarification.

To deliberate on the issue in detail, Prime Minister Imran Khan convened a special meeting of the cabinet.

Inside official told media that some cabinet members objected to the 15 per cent tax rate proposed under the scheme and some raised questions about its effectiveness.

• Special meeting convened to discuss scheme today • Cabinet approves changes to law for extradition of wanted people • CTD empowered to deal with money laundering cases • Fawad says govt to open more cases against leadership of opposition parties

Federal Minister for Communications Murad Saeed said he wanted to know the difference between the proposed scheme and the similar ones which had been launched by the previous government, according to the official to the details of the cabinet meeting held at PM Office.

Expressing his reservation over the 15pc rate, Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda called for its reduction to facilitate taxpayers, the official said.

They said Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry was of the opinion that there was a need for reforms in the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the Pakistan Customs department before launching an amnesty scheme.

According to the official , Defence Minister Pervez Khattak also opposed the idea, saying the scheme would give no benefit to the government as well as to the people because all such previous schemes had remained useless.

Extradition of wanted people

In a landmark decision, however, the cabinet approved a proposed amendment to the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) to meet conditions of some countries and the European Union (EU) by waiving the death penalty for extradition of wanted people, including Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) founder Altaf Hussain, former finance minister Ishaq Dar, former premier Nawaz Sharif’s sons, Hassan and Hussain, and others.

“The cabinet approved proposed amendment to Section 302 of the PPC to meet reservations of the EU and countries like the United Kingdom which do not extradite wanted people to Pakistan because of the death penalty,” said Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry while addressing a press conference after the cabinet meeting.

The minister did not explain whether the proposed amendment would be implemented through an act of parliament or through an ordinance. “We are waiving the condition of capital punishment to catch our big thieves and robbers,” he added.

Mr Chaudhry said people such as Altaf Hussain, Ishaq Dar, and Hassan and Hussain Nawaz would be brought to the country for trial.

However, the minister told media after the press conference that the name of retired Gen Musharraf was not under government’s consideration for extradition.

Asked about the fate of Mr Musharraf who had been declared absconder in a treason case, Mr Chaudhry said: “What wrong Musharraf has done and the case made against him was totally a political one. Many members of Musharraf’s cabinet are still here and none of them has so far been made answerable.”

CTD to deal with money laundering cases

In another major decision, the cabinet empowered the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) to deal with money laundering cases as the information minister told the media that more cases against the leadership of major opposition parties were likely to be opened.

Mr Chaudhry said the cabinet empowered the CTD to deal money laundering cases. He said more cases against ex-premier Nawaz Sharif, incumbent leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif, their family members and former president Asif Ali Zardari would be opened soon. “The cases they have been facing were made before the PTI government. Now we are going to open more cases against them on the basis of our own investigations,” he added.

The meeting also approved revamp of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSMs) through a public-private partnership, the minister said, claiming that six top steel giants of the world had shown interest in the PSM.

He said a special committee comprising Finance Minister Asad Umar, Information Technology Minister Khalid Maqbool, Revenue Minister Hammad Azar, Commerce Adviser Razzaq Dawood and PM’s special assistant Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari was formed for renewal of licences of cellular phone companies.

The cabinet decided to offer jobs from grade 1 to 5 through open ballot and removed a quota system. The meeting also gave three-month extension to acting chairman of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) Amir Ahmed Ali.

Besides, the cabinet discussed complaints against the National Testing Service (NTS), Mr Chaudhry said, adding that the Federal Public Service Commission would also be revamped.

The minister said PM Khan would launch the first phase of Apna Ghar Housing Scheme for building of 135,000 housing units on Wednesday.

About the last week attack in Quetta, the information minister said some external hands were involved in terrorism in Balochistan and implementation of the National Action Plan was the only way to eradicate the menace.