GILGIT: People in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) have gotten so rich that the government, it seems, has been ‘forced’ to levy income tax on them for the first time in the region’s history.
In a press conference on Thursday, government officials showed their pay slips to journalists. The government had deducted 3 per cent of their basic salaries as income tax.
However, the tax has not yet been levied on government employees recruited under the federal government.
The issue of income tax has been discussed ever since the self-governance order was promulgated in 2009. The issue was also discussed in the G-B council’s recent session with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in Islamabad, said a government official.
“It was agreed in the session that income tax should be imposed in the region to collect revenue to be used for the development of the region,” the official said, asking not to be named. He added that the decision had not yet been made public.
Wazir Shakil, the provincial law minister had also told the house on Wednesday that they had decided to levy tax on G-B, but the final list of taxable items is yet to be finalised.
“G-B is short of resources therefore we will have to take steps to increase our resource base,” Shakil had said.
The local president of PML-N, Hafizur Rehman, had also criticised the provincial government for not imposing any taxes. He had said that the government had made G-B a “tax theft region” by not imposing taxes. Rehman had favoured imposition of tax on the affluent so that development expenditure could be met.
That said the latest development has triggered a sharp reaction from local nationalist parties. The leaders of these parties rejected the idea of taxes and said they were unwilling to pay “any sort of tax” unless G-B was made part of Pakistan in the constitution.
“We aren’t bound to pay any taxes as we are not part of Pakistan as per the constitution,” said Nawaz Naji, a nationalist leader.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 5th, 2010.