THIS refers to the letter ‘Taxing poor’ (Sept 7). The writer claims that the FBR has increased taxes on property sale and purchase by 2,000pc. If this were true, it would mean that property valuation has been increased by a factor of 20.
A house previously being assessed at Rs10 million, for instance, would now be assessed at Rs200 million. As far as I know, this has not happened, except in some isolated cases where the declared value was ridiculously low and investors/speculators were indulging in massive tax evasion.
As for the writer’s assertion that property transactions have been at a standstill since July 1, this only proves that there are few genuine buyers and property prices have gone through the roof owing to manipulation by investors and speculators, similar to what happens with share prices.
Shakir Lakhani
Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2016

THIS refers to the article ‘Politics, not law, likely to decide murder probe’ by Owen Bennet-Jones (Sept 16). We had always been told by the British that their police were completely independent and that no one, not even the prime minister or the queen could influence the course of any investigation by Scotland Yard.
Now it seems that we were misinformed. Apparently, India has a great influence in such matters, which is why the writer says that it will be politics which will decide if the murder and money laundering trials will ever be held.
If this can happen in the mother of all democracies, why should we be surprised if it happens in undeveloped countries?
Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2016

KARACHI: Indians should ask their government how only four Pakistanis were able to capture a heavily fortified airbase recently with such ease. By the same token, it will require only 40 people to take over New Delhi and perhaps, only 400 to conquer the whole of India. If the level of competence of the Indian army is so low, why is the Indian government spending billions on defence? What is the use of keeping 700,000 soldiers in occupied Jammu and Kashmir, if they cannot prevent just four men from entering and wreaking havoc?
Shakir Lakhani
Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2016.

This refers to the article, ‘Why governments fail’ (September 19) by Dr A Q Khan. I was surprised to read the note at the end – “Expatriates have been scared away from investing in real estate in Pakistan due to our taxation policies”. Evidently, this is something he knows nothing about. Due to the new taxation policies, property prices have actually fallen by more than 30 percent, which should be very attractive to expatriates.
If the writer cares to read more on the subject, he will discover that investors and speculators had caused property prices to go through the roof, and the common man was finding it impossible to buy a plot or apartment at such high prices. My advice to the writer is to write only on what he is familiar with.
Shakir Lakhani
Printed in The News, September 20, 2016

Is it necessary for animal sacrifice to take place in homes?

 Published: September 14, 2016
Our city fathers think it is a fundamental right of the people to be allowed to take animals to their homes, and to perform the sacrifice on the streets. The result of course is that our cities are filled with the offal and entrails of dead animals for many days, raising the distinct possibility of people being infected and dying. PHOTO: REUTERS
 The year was 1348. A mysterious disease broke out, killing up to 60% of the people of Europe. It is estimated that a third of the world’s population had succumbed to the disease. Some estimates are that more than a 100 million people perished. The disease was called the Black Death, which was caused by the bites of fleas carrying the microbe from infected rats to humans. The plague was so lethal that those who came in contact with the sick were themselves infected and died within a few days.
According to those who survived, citizens avoided one another, neighbours stopped talking to each other, relatives never or hardly ever visited each other. People were so terrified that brother abandoned brother, the uncle his nephew, the sister her brother and very often the wife her husband. Incredibly, fathers and mothers refused to see and tend their children, as if they were not theirs. Soon, there was no place to bury the dead. Bodies were piled one on top of one and other in mass graves.
I remember an aged relative telling me about a plague which struck Sindh in the 19th century.
“Men would take a dead body to the graveyard, and when they returned, there were three more bodies to bury.”
Could this kind of thing happen in Pakistan, especially in Karachi?
This city is already sinking under huge piles of garbage that is causing untold misery to the people. Maybe people are already dying prematurely in small numbers due to infections caused by the bites of insects feeding on the garbage. But of particular concern is the Congo virus, which has surfaced relatively recently.

We had never heard of this lethal virus until a few years back. This year more than twenty people have already died, but these are the reported deaths. Everyone knows that in the rural areas of the country, men and women die daily even though they are young, and their relatives do not think it necessary to notify the health authorities because it is so commonplace. It looks like the Congo virus is getting stronger every year.

Even though health experts have repeatedly warned the authorities not to allow animals to be sacrificed inside cities and towns, every year almost every street witnesses the slaughter of animals by the residents.
In most other Islamic countries, at the time of Eidul Azha, animals are slaughtered in designated areas outside towns and cities. I performed Hajj 10 years ago. I did not have to do the slaughtering myself. The Saudi government charged for it and gave me a receipt. Yet our city fathers think it is a fundamental right of the people to be allowed to take animals to their homes, and to perform the sacrifice on the streets. The result of course is that our cities are filled with the offal and entrails of dead animals for many days, raising the distinct possibility of people being infected and dying. And the danger of insects carrying the virus to the people is greater this year due to the recent rains which contributes to increasing the insect population. To minimise casualties, it should be mandatory for the animals to be kept and slaughtered outside the city.

What would happen if the Congo virus or any other microbe develops into a hideous super germ, with an incubation period of more than a month? We would see people falling ill a month after Eid, and doctors not knowing why they were dying or what they were infected with. If you think there is little or no chance of this happening, just consider that we had no victims of the Congo virus or even the Dengue virus until a few years back. But will those who manage our affairs do something to prevent it, or will they wait until there is a major disaster?

Shakir Lakhani

Engineer, teacher, industrialist, associated with petroleum/chemical industries for many years. Loves writing, and (in the opinion of most of those who know him), mentally unbalanced. He tweets @shakirlakhani (