When the election papers were being accepted, Federal Board of Revenue issued a handout to District Returning Officers with a view to assist them in detecting tax default while scrutinizing nomination papers of candidates. It reads: “Filing of income tax return is obligatory if the candidate: 1) Enjoys taxable income of Rs.350, 000 or above……”. In a culture of moneyed politics prevailing in Pakistan, it is hard to believe
that any individual with annual earnings less than the taxable income of Rs.350, 000 could ever think of contesting elections. It was also mandatory for each candidate to disclose a bank account having a balance of Rs.1.5 million for meeting the election expenses, in line with ECP rules. Again, the spending on campaign is not constrained to Rs. 1.5 million, it runs into millions.
CIRP study has identified 461 members in national and provincial assemblies who won the election but did not pay income tax. A number of ministers and prominent leaders also fall in this category. There are 550 lawmakers (54%) who said they paid their taxes. Among them are also enlisted those who claimed tax payment in the nomination papers but FBR record denied it.
Parliament is the only institution authorized to impose taxes for the federation, according to Article 77 of the Constitution of Pakistan. Senate and National Assembly are two Houses of Parliament. Legislation on money matters is the exclusive domain of the National Assembly. No tax can be imposed by a forum other than this. Provincial assemblies levy taxes for their respective provinces. When judged against their tax records, they have not good examples for masses to follow.
National Assembly has 342 lawmakers. We could access record of 326 only and found out that 125 of them did not pay income tax. Non-taxpaying MNAs constitute 36 per cent of the total number whose record have been checked. The remaining 201 MNAs though claimed to have made their tax payments; the FBR data did not confirm in many cases. For this study, however, the claimants have been treated as taxpayers, presuming that they would not have made false declarations.
Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, Sardar Muhammad Yousaf, State Minister for Water and Power, Abid Sher Ali, and State Minister for Railways Abdul Hakeem Baloch are prominent among the non-taxpayer MNAs. Some others in this category are: Zafrullah Khan Jamali, Mehmood Khan Achakzai, Amir Haider Hoti, Raza Hayat Hiraj, Murad Saeed, Sheheryar Afridi and Imran Khattak.
As is evident from these names, non-taxpaying MNAs are in all major parties. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the biggest party in the National Assembly, has the lion’s share with 54 such MNAs. Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) follows with 19 non-taxpaying MNAs. Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) has 13, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) seven and Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) five. Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and Jama’at-e-Islami Pakistan (JIP) have three each. All Pakistan Muslim League (APML), Pakistan Muslim League (PML), Awami National Party (ANP) and National Party (NP) have one each MNA in this category. As many as 15 non-taxpayer MNAs won as independent candidates.
Punjab Assembly has 161 non-taxpaying MPAs. The number might be higher than this, but we could access record of 351 lawmakers only, out of 372. Minister for Environment Protection Col. ® Shuja Khanzada, and Minister for Human Rights and Minority Affairs Khalil Tahir Sindhu are among them in addition to other prominent figures like Afzal Sahi and Asif Nakai. Most of the non-taxpaying MPAs (115) belong to PML-N, followed by 14 MPAs of PTI, three of PML and one each of PPPP and JUI-F and JIP. Another 25 non-taxpaying MPAs contested as independent candidates.
Sindh Assembly has 168 MPAs out of whom 59 did not pay income tax; 104 claimed they did and we could not examine record of five MPAs. Minister for Wildlife and Minority Affairs, Giyanoo Mal, is among the non-taxpayers. PPPP leads with 28 such MPAs, followed by MQM that has 22, PML-F has four and PML-N has one. Another four such MPAs contested election as Independent candidates.
KP Assembly is a house of 124 MPAs. Only 36 of them claimed they had paid taxes; 80 did not whereas the record of eight was not available. Non-taxpaying lawmakers included Speaker Asad Qaisar, Deputy Speaker Imtiaz Shahid, Minister for Health Shaukat Yousafzai, Minister for Public Health Engineering Shah Farman and Minister for Local Government, Elections and Rural Development Inayatullah. Other prominent MPAs like Maulana Lutf-ur-Rehman, Bakht Baidar and Anisa Zeb Tahirkheli also fall in this category. PTI has 34 non-taxpaying MPAs, JUI-F and JIP have eight each, QWP has seven, ANP has three and PPPP one. Another seven MPAs in this list were elected independently.
Baluchistan Assembly has 36 MPAs who did not pay income tax; 21 MPAs claimed they did whereas record was not available in case of seven MPAs. List of non-taxpaying MPAs includes eight cabinet members: They are: Minister for Urban Planning and Development Abdul Raheem Ziaratwal, Minister for Home and Tribal Affairs Sarfraz Ahmed Bugti, Minister for Food and Women Development Izhar Hussain Khosa, Minister for Agriculture and Cooperative Sardar Muhammad Aslam, Minister for Human Rights, Sports and Youth Affairs Mir Mujeeb-ur-Rehman Muhammad Husni, Nawab Ayaz Khan Jogezai, Sardar Ghulam Mustafa Khan and Dr Hamid Khan Achakzai. PkMAP leads with nine non-taxpaying MPAs, NP has eight, PML-N has six, JUI-F has four, PML has two whereas MWM, JQM and BNP have one each. There are five MPAs in this category who won the election as independent candidates.