Often it's the media which gets the news first, even before Imran Khan and his cronies get to hear of it. The news of Asad Umar's sacking had been reported a week before it happened. Imran Khan was so annoyed that he asked the concerned department to take action against the two channels which reported the news. Right to the moment it happened, both Asad Umar and Imran Khan firmly believed it wouldn't. Finally, when the order came from above, they were shocked. Imran Khan, being a puppet prime minister, had no choice but to obey. He asked Asad Umar to give up the finance ministry and take up the energy portfolio instead. Being humiliated, Asad of course declined, which must have shocked Imran, who is used to his cronies begging for favors. And just to show that he is in charge, the mentally challenged Imran transferred a few others on the grounds that they were incompetent. Evidently he doesn't realize that if a man can't do one job properly, he can't perform well anywhere else either. The biggest joke was transferring the corpulent info minister Fawad Choudhry to the science and technology ministry. The man doesn't know anything about science, being a lawyer, so all he will do now is to show up for work a couple of times a month and collect his salary.
Of course, it may have been Imran's wife who forced him to sack Asad Umar. She is thought to be psychic, which is why Imran does everything according to her wishes. He didn't visit the families of Hazara massacre a victims until a week after the event, and that too after being reminded repeatedly about the female New Zealand prime minister going to the Muslim victims' families after fifty of them had been killed. 
He's gone to Iran today, and instead of going to the capital Tehran, he flew to Mashad, the holy city of the Shias, apparently on the orders of his wife.
I'm beginning to wonder if another rumor will turn out to be true, the one about him divorcing her. If he does, he will prove that he's a certified moron (but we know that already).

In an attempt to divert attention from the failures of those who rule over the country, a raging debate is going on, whether the parliamentary system is suitable for the country and whether the country will fare better under a powerful president. As if a powerful president is likely to be a benevolent ruler who has the interests of the people at heart. History shows that this cannot happen.

In a parliamentary system, such as the one we have, politicians are likely to be highly corrupt (like Nawaz and Zardari). But we saw greater corruption when dictators were at the helm. Ayub was declared to be the savior of the country when he seized power, but as the years went by, he came to rely on the same corrupt politicians he had replaced. Even though the country progressed during his earlier years in power, the 1965 war took a heavy toll on the economy and inflation soared. No wonder the people came out on the streets to overthrow him. The same happened with Zia and Musharraf, both were hated towards the end of their careers. Both thought they were invincible, that the people loved them and both were autocratic. Yet they too failed to deliver.

The real problem is that we have a corrupt elite with tentacles in all branches of the government. Our politicians have relatives in the army, judiciary and all government institutions. Frequently a minister has a brother who is a prominent member of a party in opposition (Ayub's brother was the leader of the opposition). No wonder there is so much corruption in the country. There is no solution to our problems except dividing the country into twenty seven provinces. That way, more people will be able to partake in politics and our tax revenue will flow down to the poor.

Tax amnesties are not the answer

Shakir Lakhani



If there is one thing the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government is known for, it is the many policy U-turns it has taken in its first eight months. There have, in fact, been so many U-turns that the ordinary people can no longer tell whether the government is going to follow a certain policy or end up changing it. They don’t trust anything the ministers say when they blame the previous government for their problems.
Prices going through the roof? Of course, Nawaz Sharif is responsible for that. Seeking a bail-out package from the International Monetroy Fund? Blame the previous government. Unemployment is on the rise? Who else but the PML-N government caused it? Stock market doing poorly? Supporters of Nawaz and Zardari are selling shares in a conspiracy to hurt the incumbents. Rupee losing ground to dollar by the day? The anti-PTI people are buying dollars.
Fortunately for the government, some of the PTI voters do see the PML-N hand in PTI’s failure to deliver on its manifesto promises.
One such person recently told me that bureaucrats were being paid by the PML-N and that they were not allowing the present government to function. Another said the judges who were throwing out cases against PML-N men were themselves corrupt. A Whattsapp message doing the rounds actually names honourable High Court judges and accuses them of being servile, lacking a conscience and being shameless. The irate author asks rhetorically whether the 220 million people of Pakistan are going to let them be or seize their destiny.
It is less than a year since Imran Khan and Asad Umar opposed a tax amnesty scheme proposed by the previous government tooth and nail. Both of them questioned the government’s motivation and insisted that such amnesty schemes benefit only the corrupt. They said proposing such schemes was an insult to the honest taxpayers. Why, they asked, should anybody pay up to 30 per cent tax on their incomes when they see tax-evaders being allowed to whiten their illegal incomes by paying only two per cent? Imran Khan even promised to scrap the amnesty scheme and go after those who had benefited from it. He may not have known at the time that one of the beneficiaries was going to be his sister. Needless to say, the prime minister and the finance minister have taken another U-turn.
The government is proposing an amnesty scheme of its own. The last amnesty scheme raised only Rs 97 billion in taxes. If the government expects to raise Rs 500 billion this time, chances are it will be disappointed.
And yet, raising tax revenues is not that difficult provided there is a will. All we have to do is to learn from the enemy. An Indian in UK once told me he bought a motorcycle for Rs 30,000. The very next day an official from the tax department visited him, asking him to prove that he had bought it with legally earned money. In Pakistan, a non-filer can buy a luxury vehicle worth Rs 100 million without the FBR even noticing it. In India, income tax inspectors have been known to go to wedding dinners, photographing the ladies and making estimates of the values of jewelry worn by them, to determine if they or their husbands earn enough to buy the jewelry. Indian tax officials in disguise routinely visit shops and restaurants and make arrests if receipts are not issued for any transactions. They have the authority to enter homes and inspect TV sets, air-conditioners and refrigerators. They can check if these have been declared in the owners’ tax returns. In Pakistan, on the other hand, smugglers have a free hand, knowing that they cannot be touched even though their activities have resulted in closure of thousands of factories. Agriculturists (who dominate our assemblies) pay virtually no income tax, they get water at nominal rates and every few years they get bank loans written off.
So, when small businessmen see this, they have a right to feel bitter and wonder why they ever registered with the income tax department, paid their taxes and were harassed every year by tax officials. Who can blame them?
The writer is an engineer, a former visiting lecturer at NED Engineering College, an industrialist, and has been associated with the petroleum, chemical industries for many years


 


Excellent work
This refers to the editorial, ‘Reducing poverty’ (April 12), I think Imran Khan is doing an excellent job already. We have a finance minister, a commerce minister, a revenue minister and an equal number of advisers, all doing the same job. Now every organisation, whether private or government-owned, should be asked to employ four people to do a job that is presently being done by one person.
In fact, since computers have already made many people jobless, employers should be discouraged from using computers. I’m sure the PTI’s promise of providing five million jobs will soon materialize.
Shakir Lakhani ( Karachi )
April 14, 2019