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Nearly all parliamentarians tax filers now, NA told

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ISLAMABAD: Only a day after giving the country its first internal security policy, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government added another feather to its cap to brag about, telling the National Assembly on Thursday that, for the first time, nearly all present parliamentarians had now become filers of income tax returns.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar interrupted an otherwise dull sitting of the house to make the statement that all but three of a total of 1,172 parliamentarians – members of the 342-seat NA, the 104-seat Senate and four provincial assemblies – would appear on a special directory as tax-return filers by Friday night.

Two of these parliamentarians, he said, had gone abroad and one was in hospital.

That achievement, the minister said, would remove an internationally condemned stigma that Pakistani parliamentarians had tax-evaders among them.

“Now, as parliamentarians, we have gone on a higher ethical ground,” he boasted after noting criticism of parliamentarians at home and abroad for the alleged tax evasion.

But, he said, this landmark had been achieved after a lot of prodding, which included his instructions to the officials of Federal Board of Revenue to even visit homes of the parliamentarians, if needed, to persuade them to file income tax returns, apparently mainly on the basis of at-source tax deductions from their salaries as legislators.

However, neither the minister, nor some members of other parties who showered congratulations on him for his efforts, talked about unknown incomes of the parliamentarians from sources like hidden businesses and real estate, though one member of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement did talk of huge undeclared incomes of big landowners from agricultural produce, although that is a provincial subject.

The finance minister said it would be the effort of the government to get a directory of all income-tax payers to be published, adding, “If our directory is published then the others’ will also be published.”

Earlier, the house passed a government bill seeking to amend the National Judicial (Policy Making) Committee Ordinance, 2002, to provide for the inclusion of the chief justice of Islamabad High Court as member of the committee.

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01.03.2014 (01.03.2014)
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