The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Saturday reiterated its call for an “in-depth and time-bound investigation” into the tax returns and wealth statements of the advisers and the special assistants to the prime minister (SAPMs).
In letters to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) chairman and the cabinet division secretary, the opposition party has urged the authorities to conduct the probe in 30 days.
The demand comes in the wake of the cabinet’s notification of July 18, showing the details of assets and dual nationalities of a total of 20 advisers and SAPMs. According to the handout, seven of them were either dual nationals or held another country’s permanent residency.
In the letters, the PML-N while referring to its earlier letter to National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser has sought an investigation and clarification on the issues, saying that the premier’s point-persons and advisers should clear their positions under the tax laws of the country.
Last month, PML-N’s Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha along with several party leaders had sought the NA speaker’s intervention in the matter while demanding of him to remove all those with dual nationality.
The PML-N had requested Qaiser to refer the matter to a standing committee on the cabinet for inquiry, by involving officers of the FBR, and lay its findings with recommendations for the future course of action before the lower house of parliament.
Like all other Pakistani citizens, the PML-N lawmaker stated, the advisers and the SAPMs are required by law to submit the information with FBR and then it is for the board to investigate the authenticity of those assets, especially those outside Pakistan. “It is also for the FBR to question the source of those assets,” he added.
In all three letters, Barrister Ranjha has used several identical paragraphs while questioning advisers and SAPMs’ tax details. “How many of the SAPMs and advisors have submitted their tax returns and wealth statements last year,” Ranjha asks in the letters. “No privilege has been granted under the law to any SAPMs”.
In the letter to the FBR chairman, Ranjha stated that SAPM on Overseas Pakistanis Syed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari has “confessed” that he is not a tax filer even being a resident Pakistani. “He [Zulfi] himself during an interview in a private news channel admitted that he has not filed returns earlier. We demand his immediate removal plus he is punished by the FBR for failing to file tax returns,” the letter reads.
Ranjha has demanded that a special team of FBR must be constituted to determine whether the advisers and SAPMs were required to file returns and wealth statement and whether they filed it or not. In addition, he demanded that the FBR shall specify a time period of no more than 30 days to finalise their returns if any.
“The assets of their dependent family members as required by law shall be made public,” he stated.
Ranjha has asked all three to conduct “in-depth investigation”, saying that the assets and income on a worldwide basis be properly scrutinised “within a defined time frame and establish whether their tax and asset declaration is in order.”
The PML-N lawmaker has also defined the tax laws in Pakistan to clarify the distinctions between resident and non-resident Pakistanis irrespective of nationality.
Under the tax laws, he said “an individual is a resident for a tax year if the individual has lived in Pakistan for a period of more than six months – 183 days – or more.”
Any period less than that means that the person is a non-resident for a tax year, he said, adding that the non-resident for a tax year still has to file income tax returns with the FBR but not wealth statements. “Even if there is no income, the return has to be filed showing non-income in it,” he continued, adding that the resident for a tax year has to file an income tax return as well as their wealth statement.
He maintained that all the advisers and SAPMs were resident Pakistanis in the fiscal year 2019 and 2020 and “they are required by income tax laws to submit tax returns and their wealth statements for the last Tax year (Fiscal year 2019) and as well as for this Tax year (Fiscal year 2020)”.
As the cabinet division’s notification shows that out of 19 non-elected cabinet members, he said, four SAPMs hold dual nationalities, including SAPM on Petroleum Nadeem Babar (US), SAPM on Overseas Pakistanis Syed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari (United Kingdom), SAPM on Power Division Shahzad Qasim (US) and former SAPM on digital Pakistan Tania S Aidrus (Canada and Singapore).
Among those holding residency of other countries, he said, are SAPM on Political Affairs Shahbaz Gill (US), SAPM on National Security Moeed Yusuf (US), and SAPM on Parliamentary Coordination Nadeem Afzal Gondal (Canada).