MQM endorses GST in committee, JUI-F opposes in Senate

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ISLAMABAD: The government’s coalition partners, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F, on Wednesday took a U-turn on their respective stances on the reformed General Sales Tax (GST) bill, with the former endorsing the decisions of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and the latter opposing the bill in the Senate.
In the Senate body on finance’s Wednesday meeting, MQM’s Senator Ahmed Ali, who is the chairman of the committee, said that the proceedings on the GST were illegal. Ali had not attended the committee’s meetings on Monday and Tuesday as he was aboard. However, PML-Q Senator Haroon Akhtar confronted him, saying everything went according to the rules.
“Accept the proceedings as legal and move forward,” Akhtar said. The committee then made MQM chief’s letter opposing the GST bill part of the proceedings and the dust settled thereafter.
Meanwhile in the Senate, the JUI-F took a U-turn from its earlier position that it would support the GST bill if its recommendations were accommodated, with Muhammad Shirani telling the Senate that his party would not only resist the passage of the bill, but would also vote against it in both houses of parliament.
JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman had told reporters in Lahore on Tuesday that his party would support the GST bill if its recommendations were accepted. Understandably, the JUI-F has taken the stance to cash in on the situation, as the party’s Senator Muhammad Khan Shirani had also refused to take charge of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) to pressure the government to specify the tenure of the appointment.
While taking part in the debate on the GST in the Senate, Shirani said the bill would burden the consumers. On a point of order, the ANP clarified its position on GST, as the party’s Senior Vice President Haji Adeel tried to quash the impression that his party would support the controversial bill. “To set the record straight, my party would only support the GST bill if its recommendations are made part of the bill and its reservations are removed,” he said.
Muhammad Ali Durrani of PML-Q called the bill a “death certificate” for the common man, saying that the government was trying to rename the value added tax GST. He also questioned the rationale behind the bill, saying although the federal government would collect revenues, there was no mechanism in place to provide revenues to districts, which were the proper forum to facilitate the common public.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani telephoned MQM chief Altaf Hussain to seek his support for the general sales tax (RGST) bill, Online reported. Sources said Altaf made it clear to Gilani that the MQM had reservations over the bill and until they were not addressed, the party would not support the bill thick and thin.
He said the suggestions given by the MQM must be considered and was of the view that instead of tabling the GST bill, the government should have taxed the agriculture sector. Later at night, a high-level team of the federal government consisting of Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh and Interior Minisiter Rehman Malik rushed to Karachi to meet MQM leadership.
The meeting was in progress and a deadlock in place by the time this report was filed.