Taxes important for true self-governance in Gilgit-Baltistan

Noor Muhammad

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

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  1. Taxes for true self-governance in Gilgit-Baltistan are not important without given legal constitutional,political and moral authority to our area by the government of Pakistan.How would you fulfill the concept of self-governance if you are not in the state constitution. Nur I agree on your point for running self-governance and asking for taxation without given these authorities to the people of that area. It is called immature governance.

  2. Dear Readers,
    Taxing people for the benefit of the people is understandable but taxing people to strengthen the colonial machanism (bureaucracy and GBLA staff–I mean ministers) through salaries and corruption leverages (absense of accountability) is, beyond acceptance.
    Development is a proccess of an integrated social, economical and political network which can be accomplished only through tangible policies with a strong focus to its ethics.

    As far as G-B is concerned, it is legitimate for the people to raise their eyebrows vis-a-vis a discriminative political machenism
    that has shattered their trust so deeply which could only be reversed through unprecedented reforms–in an upside down manner.
    Should we be so naive?

  3. It is also sinister and naive to wait for the times when the region’s colonization ends and the delusions of independence are materialized.

    What happens of the impoverished people? Shall they be left to the good-at-proposal-writing NGO or their cronies spread across the world?

    The people of GB, as a society, need to relearn to pay taxes. That’s the only way to self-reliance and growth.

  4. @Karim
    Colonization can’t be rooted out at once because of its complexity with Kashmir issue. But its effects could be minimized through good governance by the elected representatives through effective legislation and implementation. This can only happen when they will try to resist (at a minimum level) the status-quo and make intelligent use of the clauses thinly provided by the new package. They must use their limited authority for the betterment of the area to gain trust from the masses who are the integral part of any future successes in terms of a full scale provincial autonomy.

    I am in favour of taxes but highly susceptible of its utility mechanism under the status quo. Unless and untill, there is a clear legislative picture in place and an accountability proccess is clearly defined and implementd, it is natural to have suspicion.
    Since mismanagement is our national virtue in terms of resources, it is feared that the tax levied will evapoate in the file procedures of the high-ups, thus pushing poor into further misery.

    When peep into the new package, we find that the GBLA has only
    been given the legislative powers to the taxation where as the Council has the rest. In the council, the majority vote is federal
    which means barriers to the core economic and political issues?
    Up to date, council has not even passed any single bill but they press GBLA to impose taxes? What should we understand out of all this?

  5. By contitution, the government of Pakistan can collect taxes from the regions which are contitutional part of its federation. Now because GB is not contitutional part of Pakistan, therefore it is literally illegal for Pakistani governments to impose taxes of any sort on the people of Gilgit Baltistan.

    Imposition of taxes without constitutional rights being granted to the people of Gilgit Baltistan is highly questionable.

    If the taxes are imposed as result of local legislation by GBLA, the people of GB may revolt against the government and the result may be anarchy and civil war in the region.

    Give us our rights and we will give you taxes…. give no rights and use coersive tactics to impose your decisions.. you will lose us in the longer term!

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