Government succumbs to protests, agrees to withdraw taxes in GB

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ISLAMABAD: After a seven-day long complete shutter down strike across Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) against the imposition of taxes, the protesters and government have finally reached an agreement to end the protest march towards Gilgit on Wednesday.

The representatives of Traders Alliance, Awami Action Committee, and the government, after a sitting of two days, have signed an agreement under which the government has announced to withdraw the Tax Adaptation Act-2012, the major demand of people in the area. Bowing down to the demands of thousands of people, the regional government has agreed to completely withdraw the act through a notification from GB Council, which is the implementing body of taxes in GB.

As per agreed terms, the representatives of protestors and regional government will shortly visit Islamabad with their recommendations to finalise the withdrawal process of taxes through GB Council.

Another agreed point is related to GB Mineral Policy 2016 in which the government agreed to amend the policy and shift the subject of mineral policy to GB Legislative Assembly, the elected body of GB. The regional government has also agreed to get due share of all indirect taxes being collected by the federal government, as per arrangements being followed in the case of Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

As per the agreement, the government will withdraw all cases registered against leaders of protesters and no FIR will be registered against them in future. Under the agreement, the protestors who were on their way to Gilgit in the long march towards the provincial capital will end the march. However, the protest against the imposition of taxes would continue till issuance of notification regarding the adaptation act.

The two sides also agreed that after the settlement of the issue, the legislative assembly of the region may legislate regarding taxes on multinational companies and big organisations working in GB in future. As per the agreement, a copy of which is available with Pakistan Today, the regional government will ensure complete withdrawal of income tax, withholding tax and taxes on banking transactions under the Adaptation Act-2012.

The agreement on the part of government was signed by Minister and Parliamentary Committee on Tax Chairman Haji Akbar Taban, GBLA Deputy Speaker Jafarullah Khan, Minister of Works Dr Muhammad Iqbal, Minister of Local Bodies Farman Ali, Minister of Law Advocate Aurangzeb, members GB Council Syed Afzal, Agha Abbas Rizvi other members of GB Legislative Assembly including Kacho Imtiaz, Captain (retd) Shafi Khan and Imran Nadeem.

On the other hand, the protesting parties were represented by Awami Action Committee Chairman Moulana Sultan Raees, President Muhammad Ibrahim, Hotel Association President Raja Nasir, Ghulam Hussain Athar and others.

It may recall here that the protestors, after observing that the regional government is not taking the issue seriously, started the long march towards Gilgit, the capital of GB on Tuesday.

The centre this year had extended the taxation law to GB through Adaptation Act of 2012, being implemented through GB Council. However, the imposition of taxes without granting constitutional rights to people of GB is being strongly resisted in the areas for the last few months.