Taxing the people of G-B under a federally-controlled governance structure is bound to further complicate the debate about the constitutional status of the region and its obligations to the state of Pakistan. People would, logically, demand justification for paying taxes to a state that does not offer complete civil and political rights to them.
When asked to offer an alternate mechanism for revenue generation, the opponents of taxation argue that tourism royalty, royalty of the Diamir-Bhasha Dam and Bunji Dam, or the Karakuram Highway, will suffice for the limited financial needs of G-B.
The question that we need to ask ourselves at this point is for how long will G-B be able to sustain itself, and grow, on the royalty of mega projects? Is it strategically feasible? Even if we add the (lethargic) border revenues, or other such future sources, to the list of potential cash generators, will it be enough and long-lasting? Will not our economy be perpetually dependent on a highly treacherous and vulnerable revenue stream? Would not the region’s dependency on Islamabad further increase, instead of gradually lessening, as we aspire?
There seems to be no other alternative to collecting taxes from G-B if we want to see a robust economy and an increasingly self-reliant governance system. Exactly who will be taxed and in what ratio are very important questions that need a region-wide debate, in which all stakeholders need to be informed and brought onboard.
The present government needs to hold meetings in each village and town of the region to get input from the people and also share information about the benefits of paying taxes.
G-B has become used to not paying taxes and it would initially be difficult to persuade the public to pay money to a government that is already burdened by the allegations of massive corruption.
Complete at Express Tribune