Senate accords nod to recommendations on tax amnesty bill


Cracks in the ruling coalition stood exposed on Friday as the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was left stranded by its three major coalition partners as senators of Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Awami National Party (ANP) opposed the tax amnesty scheme being introduced by the PPP government. Despite being alone and equipped only with misguided calculations, the PPP got the recommendations passed from the House with a majority as the opposition did not bother to challenge the ruling of the chair and did not demand a count over the voting either. Ishaq Dar, leader of the opposition in the Senate, also facilitated the PPP government as he looked very friendly towards the treasury benches throughout the session. He did not even challenge the Senate chairman’s ruling for counting over the recommendations despite the fact that some of the PML-N back-benchers demanded a vote count. Senate Standing Committee on Finance Chairperson Nasreen Jalil said that MQM was opposed to the Tax Laws (Amendment) Bill 2012 and the committee had passed the recommendations with a majority of four against two votes. She added that the Senate is supporting thieves and dacoits to get away with the law through this bill and is giving around three million corrupt people amnesty through it. As Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh rose from his seat to move the motion for putting the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance to the House for voting, it was the ANP members who decided to object and decided to stage a walk out from the House in protest to the voting on the bill. The bill has already been opposed by the ANP and they will not become part of the voting procedure on this bill, said Senator Abdul Nabi Bangish of the ANP as he led his party members’ walkout. It was evident later that the walkout was pre-determined as it facilitated the PPP to get the recommendations over the bill passed. Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed of the PML-Q followed, saying that his party was opposed to the bill which violated fundamental rights of the people of Pakistan. Taking part in the debate, Leader of the Opposition Ishaq Dar expressed reservations over the bill, stating that there were many flaws in the original bill which were rectified by the Senate Standing Committee. He said that the bill meant a tax amnesty scheme for “filthy rich” people and would also facilitate the tax evaders. He said the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) should have brought all the 2.9 million tax evaders into the tax net but instead the FBR had chosen a method to facilitate 2.7 tax evaders through amnesty scheme while only two million would be brought under the tax net through normal procedures. Defending the bill, Minister for Finance Abdul Hafeez Shaikh said that the Tax Laws (Amendment) Bill 2012 would help broaden tax base facilitating 2.7 million tax-evaders to bring into the tax net for a life-time.