Negligent FBR

A couple of years ago, a lady got a notice from the income tax department to explain why she had not registered with the department even though she had some income from dividends and shares. In Karachi, when such a notice is received, one knows that one will have to pay through the nose to get tax hounds off one’s back.

So even though she is not rich and barely earns enough to survive she had to pay a heavy amount under the table. Which makes me wonder why the tax authorities did not notice that a high-profile person claiming to be the owner of a multi-million dollar IT firm had paid income tax of only Rs22 and Rs26 for the past two years. Do these ‘hard-working’ people have nothing else to do than devising new ways to harass registered taxpayers? Why did they fail to notice that the IT firm did not file tax returns for the past two years? Before doing anything else the FBR should first take action against its own negligent officers.

Shakir Lakhani
Printed in The News, May 25, 2015

Is Pakistan a failing state?

 Published: May 22, 2015
perhaps even our judiciary.
They have infiltrated our institutions, our schools and colleges, our universities, our police departments, our armed forces and perhaps even our judiciary.

More than 45 people are shot dead in cold blood by six or eight armed men, who reached the spot on motorcycles. At practically every traffic signal in Karachi, one can see armed policemen stopping motorcyclists, checking the vehicles’ papers and letting them go after extorting some money.
Yet on the day of the mass killing, no one stopped the killers, while the police station nearby was nearly empty.
Isn’t this a glaring sign of failure of the state?
Dr Bernadette Dean, who had been living in the country for many years and was advising the provincial government on revision of syllabi, received death threats from a religious party. She left Pakistan but was too scared to name the said religious political party. We are all aware that in Karachi there is only one particular party deeply worried about teaching our children subjects which will train them to think and question, yet newspapers also dared not name it.
In which other country would such a situation be tolerated?
And you think Pakistan is not a failing state?
In Lahore, a cleric in a madrassa accuses a federal minister of blasphemy because the latter said seminaries produce illiterate students. Government takes no action against the cleric. Students of another seminary in Islamabad are caught installing banners calling for the hanging of the federal minister. When police intervene, they beat up the cops. The students are chased and their madrassa is identified.
Again, no action will be taken against those running that madrassa.
Is this how governments in civilised countries react?
The federal finance minister says his government is helpless and cannot take any action against smugglers and those selling smuggled goods in Bara markets.
What kind of government is this?
Do you want more evidence that Pakistan is a failing state?
Senior police officers are being routinely killed, while those policemen who are not ghost employees are guarding the ministers and parliamentarians. There is no development in the city, so one wonders what they do with all our tax money. The whole city is without water for days because government departments have been filled with political appointees who will never be held accountable for their negligence.
And yet you refuse to realise that we are living in a failing state?
A very rich person pays only Rs26 as income tax, his 20-billion dollar IT company fails to file returns for two years, and the tax hounds do nothing. However, if a common man fails to file a return even though he is earning just enough to barely stay alive, the income tax department springs into action and threatens to auction his house. It will be a miracle if the rich man is given adequate punishment; most people believe he will be let off after a long investigation. Some believe that he is innocent, others that his company is being victimised by business rivals, that it is a conspiracy against the country.
Is this how citizens of a successful state respond in such a situation?
A graduate from a prestigious institution turns into an extremist after going on four-month long evangelical tours organised by an ostensibly peaceful group. Others arrested along with him have also, allegedly, been indulging in terrorism for many years. The police, however, were not even aware of their existence until now, after several murders and killings – including the one of 47 people in a bus.
No one will ask the police why they did nothing for all these years, despite the murders of a foreign female principal and several other people. The killer of a provincial governor is garlanded by lawyers who give him the status of a hero.
Not a failed state? Think again!
It’s time to wake up. They have infiltrated our institutions, our schools and colleges, our universities, our police departments, our armed forces and perhaps even our judiciary. They have dedicated themselves to our destruction, and the only way to prevent them is to raise our voices and urge our leaders to do more to fight extremism in the country leading to terrorism.
But of course, first we have to discard our conspiracy theories and admit that our country is failing and is in great danger of disintegration.
Shakir Lakhani

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 (

KARACHI: Mr Ishaq Dar, the very able finance minister of what passes for the country’s federal government, said that no action could be taken against Bara markets (where smuggled goods are sold), because it would create a law and order problem. I wonder if the minister even knows how much damage smuggling is doing to the country’s economy. 
Isn’t he aware that thousands of factories in the country have been forced to close down because their owners cannot compete with smuggled goods? Does he know that smuggling has rendered millions of workers jobless? If his government cannot take action against smugglers, how will it deal with terrorism? Finally, since this government is so weak that it cannot enforce its writ, why should it continue ruling the country?
Shakir Lakhani
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th,  2015.

Over to the army

Karachi witnessed another mass killing on Wednesday. Except for announcing compensation to the victims’ families the Sindh government largely remained unmoved. How much longer will this situation go on?

Some government officials will claim, as usual, that ‘foreign hands’ are responsible – as if this absolves them of their responsibilities. They are interested only in enriching themselves and perpetuating their rule. The only solution left is to hand the Karachi’s administration over to the army.

Shakir Lakhani
Printed in The News, May 15, 2015

Bara markets and govt

This is apropos the news item "No plan to close down Bara markets: Dar" (May 14). According to the minister, the government is helpless before sellers of smuggled goods and cannot take any action against shopkeepers of Bara markets like Karkhano Bazaar in Peshawer. May I remind him that the Quaid at the time of independence said that the first duty of every government is to maintain law and order. If this government cannot arrest people indulging in smuggling and selling smuggled goods, how will it be able to contain terrorism? How will it recover taxes from those who refuse to get themselves registered with the income tax and sales tax departments?  Since this government is so weak that it cannot enforce its writ, it should step down immediately and its ministers should not be allowed to contest future elections.

Shakir Lakhani
 Printed in DAWN, May 16, 2015