Friday, December 4, 2020

State Sponsored Corruption, claims Shabbar Zaidi

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In an interview to a private channel, Former Chairman Federal Board of Revenue, Shabbar Zaidi, called corruption in the country “state-sponsored”.

Mr. Zaidi, a well-known senior chartered accountant based in Karachi from the A.F. Ferguson firm and former caretaker provincial minister for Sindh was named FBR chief in May 2019.

He became the third person from the private sector to secure this position after FBR appointed him on an “honorary and pro bono basis for a period of two years with immediate effect”.

He was previously offered the role to become the FBR chairman but he had initially refused. Zaidi, an advocate of allowing people to avail the tax amnesty scheme at low rates pledged to bring administrative reforms in the tax system.

Read more: Shabbar Zaidi resigns, New chairperson FBR notified

Months after taking office in what was a controversial term, he resigned from FBR citing health reasons.

His appointment was met with objection since the start from FBR officers as they have always shied away from welcoming non-bureaucrats as chairman.

The Inland Revenue Officers Association issued a statement after his appointment threatening court action against it.

“The association believes that the issue of appointing any person from private sector has already been resolved through the judgement of Islamabad High Court,” said the statement, referring to the case of Arshad Ali Hakeem of 2013.

Read more: Shabbar Zaidi: Experienced taxman facing a formidable challenge

Earlier this month, a WhatsApp message written by Mr. Zaidi circulated on the internet in which he called out policies.

“I served as Chairman FBR and miserably failed.” He added “I can assure that actual personal taxes by all billionaire MNAs will be less definitely low than mine. But my net wealth is less than one tenth or twentieth of the lowest. They know some ‘tax planning’ which I do not understand. It is state sponsored corruption”.

“My suggestion for correction is not any more think tank or committees. It is more and more information to public at large. Society if well informed is always very ruthless whilst dealing with its interest” the statement read.

Last week, he publicly accepted the message as written by him, saying it was first sent on WhatsApp groups called “Corporate Pakistan” and “C 100”. He said that he has “left both the groups. What I said is my feeling.”

Building up on it, Mr Zaidi talked about this state sponsored corruption in the interview last night. He mentioned Nawaz Sharif’s Protection of Economic Reforms Act of 1992 that helped in sending money outside of Pakistan. He questioned how ease of foreign currency exchange, real state’s differential being out-of-book, property evaluation, agriculture income not reconciling are all examples of state sponsored corruption.

Read more: 10% of tax filers in Pakistan pay 45% of total tax: report

He challenged where money of MPAs and MNAs was coming from and questioned their lifestyle and money.

When asked why he gave up on FBR, Mr. Zaidi said, “I was alone in Islamabad socially. I couldn’t understand Islamabad. I was there for 5 months. Islamabad’s environment made me nervous. I would have stayed if I had settled in Islamabad’s environment”.

He lauded the Prime Minister and talked about his support towards him. “I am thankful to Imran Khan Sahab. He asked me to take care of my health”. He stated that he maintains good relations with the Prime Minister, with the latter calling him “You are my hero”.

“I am not a politician and do not have political background”. He expressed how during his term at FBR, every evening there would be things against him on TV. “They were afraid that this man would do something”.

Recalling when State Bank of Pakistan’s governor Tariq Bajwa asked how to fix this country in a briefing with businessmen, no constructive ways were given as everyone prioritized self-interest and saving their industry. “I got depressed that very day” citing disappointment in the business community. These business mafias didn’t let reforms being passed.

Read more: FBR surpasses its tax collection target by a margin of Rs57 billion in July

Earlier there was another message in circulation that Imran Khan stopped Mr. Zaidi against any action towards the sugar mafia. Mr. Zaidi in a series of tweets rejected it as his own.

“My respect for Imran Khan increased many times after working with him. He is great leader and a warrior against status quo. I respect and salute him.”

“IK supported me in every respect. IK is a great man and a great leader. I can swear about his intellectual and financial integrity. I am 100 percent with him” said Mr. Zaidi. He added “I reiterate that IK supported me in all my actions. We all should come forward in helping him for eradicating Mafias in this country.”

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