NA Passes PIA, Tax Amnesty Bills Despite Opposition Protest
ISLAMABAD: A strong protest by the opposition parties on Thursday could not deter the government from getting two separate bills passed by the National Assembly.
The bills pertained to the conversion of Pakistan International Airlines Corporation into a public company limited and providing an opportunity to traders to whiten their black money up to Rs50 million by paying 1pc tax.
The extended proceedings of the House continued till 4pm for the passage of the two bills. Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq prorogued the session as soon as the House cleared the two bills.
The Pakistan International Airlines Corporation (Conversion) Bill, 2015 and the Income Tax (Amendment) Bill 2015 were besides four other bills — the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2015, the Offences in Respect of banks (Special Courts) (Amendment) Bill, 2015, the Equity Participation (Repeal) Bill, 2014 and the Banks (Nationalization) (Amendment) Bill, 2015 — passed by the lower house of parliament.
The opposition parties registered their protest by shouting “No, No” and tearing copies of the two bills.The two bills are likely to be rejected by the Senate where the opposition is in a majority and as such the government will have to call a joint sitting of parliament to achieve the desired objective.
The opposition benches were taken by surprise when suddenly copies of the additional agenda of the day containing the PIAC (Conversion) Bill, 2015 were distributed in the House.
Syed Naveed Qamar, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Sahibzada Tariqullah, S A Qadri and others termed the moving of the bill through the additional agenda a violation of the rules of Conduct of Business of the House.
They also termed the passage of the bill illegal, saying the government was bulldozing the legislative business on the basis of its majority.Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Syed Naveed Qamar said they had not gone through the report of the Special Committee on PIA that had been laid in the House only on Thursday.
The members of opposition parties, except for the MQM, staged a walkout. The MQM members, however, opposed the legislation when it was moved for passage. “The bill carries mala fide intentions and it was also kept secret that it would be moved in the National Assembly on Thursday,” said S A Iqbal Qadri.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmad, however, pressed for the passage of the bill during the proceedings on Thursday.As per legislation, the PIA would be converted into a company which would hold and own all assets and liabilities of the corporation.
It will also be entitled to the benefits of all notifications, licenses, permissions, sanctions, authorisations, concessions, decrees, air service agreements, orders and benefits whatsoever issued or granted in favour of the corporation.
All employees shall be deemed the company employees on same remuneration and other conditions of service, rights and privileges including but limited to the provisions like pension, provident fund and gratuity.
The government also faced strong opposition during the passage of Income Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2015. At a stage, the opposition parties also staged a walkout from the house complaining about the attitude of the government.
The opposition members described the bill as discriminatory and said the scheme would promote a tax-evasion culture.They were of the view that it would also discourage taxpayers adding that the scheme will not achieve its desired goals.
Opposition Leader Syed Khursheed Shah said the government should refrain from such legislations which it had been opposing during the PPP tenure.He also quoted from a speech of Ishaq Dar when he opposed the tax amnesty scheme when the PPP government had sought legislation three years back.
He said it would be for the ninth time in the country’s history that the tax amnesty scheme was being implemented. “The past schemes also yielded no significant results and this scheme is also bound to fail,” he said.
Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Sahibzada Tariqullah also opposed the legislation saying the tax amnesty scheme was aimed at benefiting a particular group of traders. They said the government also did not take the majority of traders into confidence on the amnesty scheme.
Parliamentary Secretary for Finance Rana Muhammad Afzal Khan said it was not an amnesty scheme but Voluntary Tax Compliance Scheme for traders to bring them into the tax net. He said the government held negotiations with traders across the board for six months to finalise the scheme.
He said the scheme would broaden the tax base and through enhanced tax collection, it would be in a position to lower the tax rates.The parliamentary secretary said the scheme was different from the previous ones, as smugglers and black marketers could not benefit from this scheme.
Minister for Climate Change Zahid Hamid, who had moved the bill, rejected the impression that the legislation was discriminatory.As per the Income Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2015 for traders qualifying for the scheme, working capital for the tax year 2015 shall not exceed Rs50 million and tax at the rate of one percent of the working capital shall be the payable on profits and gains for trading activity.
According to the bill, a tax rate of 0.2 percent would apply on turnover not exceeding Rs50 million, 0.15 percent tax rate in addition to Rs100,000 where turnover exceeds Rs50 million but does not exceed Rs250 million.
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