Zardari, Rehman Malik and Amin Fahim are among tax dodgers

Islamabadbad News Desk Dec 21: A majority of Pakistani parliamentarians and politicians, including President Asif Zardari and Interior Minister Rehman Malik are tax dodgers, a report on rampant tax evasion among the country’s political elite has revealed.

The Centre for Investigative Reporting in Pakistan’s report said two-thirds of the country’s elected political leaders failed to submit any income tax returns last year. The report says out of 446 members of the Senate and National Assembly, 300 did not file their tax returns. Those who did paid an amount that does not match their living standards.

Out of 126 parliamentarians, who paid their taxes, only 15 paid above $10,500 and 68 below $1,060. PM Raja Pervez paid only $1500income tax which is an insignificant amount not matching his declared wealth.

Out of 54 ministers, 34 did not file tax returns. The prominent among them include interior minister Rehman Malik, railways minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, Benazir Income Support Programme chairperson Farzana Raja and commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim.

Fahim is not registered for even National Tax Number (NTN). Foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar, considered among the richest cabinet members, paid just $725.

In the Senate, Aitzaz Ahsan was the highest taxpayer with $136,589 while Mushahid Hussainthe lowest taxpaying senator. He paid less than a dollar in 2011. Jehangir Tareen was the highest taxpaying National Assembly member with $179,507. The lowest taxpaying was PML-N’s Sheikh Rohail Asghar, who paid $ 175.

Former PM Yousaf Raza Gilani and his 25 cabinet members had acknowledged in their nomination papers for the February 2008 general elections that they did not pay a single penny as income tax. Gilani even registered for NTN in 2010, one-and-half-year before quitting.

According to the World Bank, Pakistan has one of the lowest tax collection rates in the world and the government is largely reliant on loans and foreign aid. In June 2011, the National Assembly was informed that Pakistan was second from the bottom among 154 countries on the tax to GDP ratio ranking.

The government recently said it will launch tax amnesty for three million people if they agree to pay a one-off fine on undeclared income.

The report says the problem starts at the top. “Those who make revenue policies run the government and collect taxes. They have not been able to set good examples for others,” it said. – agencies

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