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HOW CBR HELPS THEM BECOME RICH

CBR,- Corrupt or Politicized

The Central Board of Revenue (CBR) can enrich individuals and groups beyond one's expectation and imagination by issuing the right SRO (Statutory Regulations and Orders) or vice versa turn them into pauper by starting investigations of tax evasion and assessing tax liability with retrospective effect. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will gladly vouch for these powers, since he has been at both the receiving and giving ends of the CBR.

CBR has the reputation of being corrupt, besides being one of the most politicized departments of Govt of Pakistan. From the office of chairman to middle and lower ranks, appointments are made in CBR on political and financial considerations. One frequently comes accross people in Islamabad with offers of money for appointments or postings in departments under the jurisdiction of CBR. The amount that these people offer. even for a clerical job in customs, income tax or other subordinate departments gives a measure of corruption and graft in CBR.

It is thus, not mere coincidence that the chairman of CBR has invariably been the first to go with each change of govt since 1988. Benazir Bhutto assumed power in the last week of December 1988 and Ghulam Yazdani Khan was appointed the new chairman CBR on January 22, 1989. He was removed on August 10, 1990 within 5 days of Bhutto's dismissal and was later arrested by Nawaz Sharif govt, ostebsibly on charges of smuggling. But his real crime was initiating investigations into the allegations of tax evasion by House of Ittefaq.

Nawaz Sharif waited for eight months to bring Sajjad Hassan as CBR chairman who was dismissed by President Ghulam Ishaq on April 8, 1993, two days after Nawaz Sharif was dismissed. Kazi Aleem Ullah was appointed the new chairman on May 3, 1993 who was replaced on July 17, 1993 by a PPP nominee Mobin Ahsan who, in turn could survive only a week because of reinstatement of Nawaz Sharif govt by Supreme Court of Pakistan.

The successive governments and senior bureaucats have always been conscious of the corruption plaguing CBR and Kazi Aleem Ullah, in a letter on May 8, 1993 to members and senior officials of CBR said that " it was extremely unfortunate that both customs and incom tax services which are the backbone of federal tax administration enjoy a very poor reputation in public eye. So much so that these departments are always quoted, in private as well as in public, as corrupt departments".

Very few people know that according to Federal Service Census Report, 1993, CBR presently housed in an unassuming building on the Constitution Avenue in Islamabad is the second biggest employer, among all the federal govt departments after Pakistan Railways, accounting for 12% of the total stregth of Federal Employees estimated at 1,75,189.

Politics of SRO:

The 1973 constitution had clearly provided that " impostion, abolition, remissions, alteration or regulation of any tax" would fall in the jurisdiction of Finance Bill to be passed by the National Assembly. But during the Zia ul Haq era when there was no National Assembly, this powe was usurped by CBR which imposed duties, withdrew duties, exempted industries from paying off taxes and duties, made refunds with retrospective effects when somebody had to be favoured, simply by issuing SROs. The use of CBR and SRO's for imposing and changing rates of duties continued under both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif because of their penchant for corruption, incompetence and mental subordination to bureaucracy.

While in opposition, Finance Minister Sartaj Aziz had accused Benazir govt of " ruling through SROs" and had condemned " the illegal and unconstitutional practice of issuing SRO's without the approval of parliment". At a press conference on May 17,1996 he announced that the opposition was contemplating a move in the court against the practice of levying " taxation by issuing SRO's without the approval of the parliment". But SRO's have been issued and withdrawn with greater speed during second Nawaz Sharif govt than ever before.

Earlier in 1993, when Nawaz Sharif was dismissed, caretaker Interior Minister has accused his govt of issuing SRO's seeking to slice the import duty on scrap " without lawful authority ".

As on several other fronts, Benazir and Nawaz Sharif also fought a battle of the SRO's giving concessions to oneself and withdrawing concessions from the other. Thus while both used SRO's indiscriminately for personal ends, officials of CBR were encouraged to also use them to grind personal axes.

One of the first official acts of Benazir Bhutto, both in 1998 and 1993 was to move CBR for an exemption in the import duty of Mercedes Cars for personal use. Similarly some of the sweetest dishes must have been to Prime Minister by the CBR issuing SRO's for the benefit of House of Ittefaq. Conversely when he was in opposition the hounds of CBR were let loose on him. The case of Prime Minister Sharif also shows how CBR is used by the rulers for greasing their palms or settling scores with the opponents.

Following exemples illusterate how CBR served sweet dishes to House of Ittefaq and how duties were manipulated to settle personal scores.
 
 

Interesting Cases of CBR

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