I woke up on the morning of Saturday November 14, 2015, switched on the TV and recoiled in horror when I saw and heard what had happened. More than a hundred people had been killed in Paris. “Oh God”, I said to myself, “Not Muslims again!” In the elevator my neighbor said, "It can’t be Muslims who have done this, Muslims are too stupid to organize this kind of thing”. Just like the World Trade Center bombings, which most Pakistanis still think were carried out by Jews disguised as Muslims. As I headed towards my car, I heard a driver say, “They’ve done it to give Muslims a bad name; they want to send all Muslims in their country back to their native lands”.
Another nodded in agreement. “They don’t want to take in Muslim refugees from Syria, so they killed their own people, knowing that Muslims would be blamed”.

At the office, I heard more of the same stuff. “We know Jews arranged the September 11 incidents on a Jewish holiday, it wasn’t done by Muslims”, said one. “These Paris killings are similar”. Later, when the Islamic State claimed to have done the killings, the reaction was, “IS? Didn’t former British PM admit the other day that IS was the result of the invasion of Iraq?” You know, just like the Pakistani Taliban were supposed to be good Muslims until they killed 147 school children last December.

So we are still living in a state of denial. If for a moment we accept that all these terrorist attacks are planned and organized by Jews, how can we explain why it is always Muslims who pull the triggers? Surely those who are behind these terrorists can use non-Muslims to execute their nefarious plans? Not long ago, suicide bombings used to be carried out by Tamils in Sri Lanka. So why are Tamils not selected by the Jews?

No, we’ll have to admit there’s something wrong with us. It’s obvious that Muslims are planning and executing the killings themselves, and when the terrorists say that they are doing it for whatever reason, we should believe them. But first we have to end corruption in Muslim lands, turn Islamic countries into welfare states providing justice to their people before we can remove the causes of terrorism. Until that happens, we are likely to see more incidents like the one that happened in Paris.

KARACHI: This is with reference to Kamal Siddiqi’s article, “New taxes, old story” (November 9). Instead of burdening those who are already in the tax net, the government can do a lot to improve revenue collection. For a start, it can recover taxes from shopkeepers in markets all over the country that sell smuggled goods, like the Karkhano Bazaar in Hayatabad, Peshawar. Only filers of tax returns should be allowed to buy and sell shares, motor vehicles, plots, apartments, bungalows and buildings.
Everyone knows that there is a huge difference between the actual price of immovable property and the declared value, which is sometimes only 10 per cent of the actual value. Surely, the Federal Board of Revenue is aware of this. Surely, politicians and bureaucrats have bought plots, bungalows and apartments in the past. Did they pay taxes on the actual values? In India, if a property is to be sold, the owner has to inform the government of its declared sale price. If the government feels that it is lower than the actual price, it can buy the property from the seller and auction it off to the highest bidder. Our government should do the same here. Of course, there will be a lot of resistance at first, but reducing our debt should be the top priority of the government.
Shakir Lakhani
Published in The Express Tribune, November 12th, 2015.

Tax evasion

Sir: According to a news item, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has launched a probe against two property investors. Despite having no known source of income, the mother and son spent Rs 920 million to buy a big plot in Islamabad. This immediately makes one suspect that the two must own many other properties either in their own names or those of their near and dear ones (a common practice among those who do not have “white” money). The National Accountability Bureau should immediately investigate this case, freeze their bank accounts and seize all their properties and other assets. NAB should also investigate all major property deals like this one and take action against those who cannot explain their sources of income. Obviously, no ordinary person can amass such huge amounts of money without tax evasion and the involvement of tax officials. No wonder such people are able to buy properties without being noticed and brought into the tax net by the FBR!

Shakir Lakhani
Printed in Daily Times, November 3, 2015

The audacity of an apology

This refers to the editorial, ‘Blair’s apology’ (October 27). One cannot help being amazed at the audacity of the former UK prime minister. While admitting that the invasion of Iraq resulted in the present chaotic mess in the Middle East (including the rise of Isis), the former UK prime minister says it was a ‘mistake’, conveniently omitting to mention that most experts had warned that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction at the time. 
Had Blair been the leader of a Third World country, he (and Bush) would have been tried as war criminals. The least Britain and the US can do is offer asylum to all Syrian refugees stranded in Europe.

Shakir Lakhani
Printed in The News, October 29, 2015

Dealing with tax evaders
Sir: There are reports that the government is considering an amnesty scheme for non-filers and tax evaders. Many such amnesty schemes were launched in the past and unscrupulous elements took full advantage to whiten black money. The fact is such schemes only help those who have looted the country and the government should not declare any amnesty scheme now, or ever. It is well-known that among the non-filers there are smugglers, black marketers, hoarders and others who habitually evade taxes by staying out of the tax net. Their illicit activities result in rampant inflation, exponential increase in property prices and weakening of the state. If the country is to survive and progress, the government should take the following steps:
1. Give a deadline to all non-filers to get registered immediately. They should be made to pay at the full tax rate the entire amount they have evaded over the past 10 years.
2. Arrest all those non-filers who resist. Those who give calls for strikes should be tried in court.
3. Seize the assets of all non-filers and ask utility companies to stop supplying electricity, water and gas to them.
4. The children of all non-filers should be removed from their schools and should be forced to be educated in government schools.
5. All immoveable and other properties of non-filers should be auctioned immediately and the proceeds distributed among those honest citizens who have been paying taxes regularly.
6. The names of all non-filers should be published in newspapers and they should not be allowed to leave the country. Such thieves and dacoits should know that the state can strip them of their nationalities.
7. Their passports and identity cards should be cancelled, and they should be sentenced to many years imprisonment with hard labour.
All taxpayers should get united and urge the government not to declare another amnesty scheme but deal firmly with criminals and anti-Pakistan people like non-filers and tax evaders.

Shakir Lakhani
Printed in Daily Times, October 23, 2015