The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Saturday sought the National Assembly speaker’s directive for an “in-depth and time-bound” investigation by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) into the tax returns and wealth statements of the advisers and the special assistants to the prime minister (SAPMs).
It also demanded of the government to remove all those with dual nationality.
The details emerged after PML-N’s lawmaker Barrister Mohsin Nawaz Ranjha along with several other party lawmakers requested NA Speaker Asad Qaiser to refer the matter to a standing committee on the cabinet for inquiry, by involving FBR officers and lay its findings with recommendations for the future course of action before the lower house.
“How many of the SAPMs and advisers have submitted their tax returns and wealth statements last year,” Barrister Ranjha asked in a letter to the NA speaker.
“No privilege has been granted under the law to any SAPMs,” it further reads.
The letter has been written in connection with the cabinet division’s notification issued on July 18, showing the details of assets and dual nationalities of total 20 advisers and SAPMs. In an unprecedented move, the government in July went public with the assets and nationalities of the advisers and SAPMs – bringing to light that seven of them were either dual nationals or held another country’s permanent residency.
Like all other Pakistani citizens, the PML-N lawmaker stated the advisers and the SAPMs are required by law to submit information with the FBR and then it is for the board to investigate the authenticity of those assets, especially those outside Pakistan. “It is also for the FBR to question the source of those assets,” he added.
“The first and foremost action, we demand is that all these with dual nationalities be removed,” Ranjha said, adding that the assets and income on worldwide basis be properly scrutinised through an in-depth investigation by the FBR “within a defined time frame and establish whether their tax and asset declaration is in order.”
He has questioned how a person with dual nationality could be appointed adviser or SAPM in the first place as once appointed, they are privy to cabinet meetings and have access to sensitive information. “We also question that why these SAPMs did not revoke their foreign nationality once they were appointed in those positions,” the letter reads.
It also reads that Prime Minister Imran Khan held a public stance before the general elections and “denounced” the politicians with foreign nationality or those keeping assets outside the country. He reminded the NA speaker that many parliamentarians from almost all political parties had “renounced” their nationalities in order to be elected as members of the respective house.
Ranjha maintained that the tax laws in Pakistan clarify the distinctions between resident and non-resident Pakistanis irrespective of nationality.
Under the tax laws, he said, an individual was resident for a tax year if the individual had lived in Pakistan for a period of more than six months – 183 days – or more.
“Any period less than that means that the person concerned is a non-resident for a tax year,” he said, adding that the non-resident for a tax year still had to file income tax returns with the FBR but not wealth statements.
“Even if there is no income, the return has to be filed showing non-income in it,” he continued, adding that the resident for a tax year has to file an income tax return as well as their wealth statement.
Drawing the speaker’s attention towards Adviser to the PM on Finance Dr Hafeez Shaikh, Ranjha said that Shaikh was a non-resident for the fiscal year ending June 2019 as he came to Pakistan in April 2019 and was required to file only income tax returns but not the wealth statement.
This year, he said, Shaikh is a Pakistani resident – a resident for the tax year 2020 – having lived for more than six months meaning that the adviser has to file both tax returns as well as wealth statement and both must include income and assets not just in Pakistan but all over the world.
Similarly, he maintained, all other advisers and SAPMs were resident Pakistanis in the fiscal year 2019 and 2020. “They are required by income tax laws to submit tax returns and their wealth statements for the last tax year (fiscal year 2019) and as well as for this tax year (fiscal year 2020),” he stated.
As the cabinet division’s notification shows that out of 19 non-elected cabinet members, he said four SAPMs hold dual nationalities, including SAPM on Petroleum Nadeem Babar (US), SAPM on Overseas Pakistanis Syed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari (United Kingdom), SAPM on Power Division Shahzad Qasim (US) and former PM’s on Digital Pakistan Tania S Aidrus (Canada and Singapore). Aidrus had recently resigned.
Among those holding residency of other countries, he said, are SAPM on Political Affairs Shahbaz Gill (US), SAPM on National Security Moeed Yusuf (US), and SAPM on Parliamentary Coordination Nadeem Afzal Gondal (Canada).
He said that clarification and investigation are needed about the assets and nationalities of all the advisers and SAPMs to clear their position under the tax laws of the country.