KP Assembly speaker demands 10-year tax exemption for Pata, Fata

Few hours before the important session of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly to pass Fata reforms bill, Speaker of the KP Assembly, Asad Qaiser expressed concerns regarding the issue of tax exemption enjoyed by the people of Malakand Division. He said that the bill will roll back tax immunity previously granted to the people of Malakand division.

Amid strong protest from the JUI-F and 24 MPAs from Malakand division against inclusion of Provincial Administered Tribal Areas (Pata) in FATA-KP merger, the concerns of Pata lawmakers have been taken up in a letter that KP Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser wrote to his National Assembly counterpart Ayaz Sadiq, demanding that Pata and Fata be declared as tax-free zones for at least 10 years.

Qaiser stated that the two regions have been exempted from taxes for a long time, which is fair as the areas are badly affected by insurgencies and internal displacement of people due to military operations and natural calamities. Since the constitutional amendment would result in withdrawal of tax exemptions from the tribal areas, MPAs from Pata have shown concerns over the passage of the bill, the letter reads.

The lawmakers are demanding an extension of the tax exemption for at least 10 years as the people have gotten used to the historic by-laws and need time to adjust themselves to the new reforms. “Their demands are justified for the reasons that both Fata and Pata have been exempted from taxes historically. The areas have also suffered the most by insurgencies and mass internal displacement due to military operations and natural calamities,” the letter states.

The exemption has been demanded through appropriate legal instruments adhering to various taxation laws referred to on urgent basis before the voting of the bill in the provincial assembly. Therefore, Qaiser has requested Sadiq to provide the sought exemptions on an urgent basis before voting starts on the amended bill in KP Assembly.

Qaiser informed the media that he has discussed the issue with Ayaz Sadiq, who assured that the exemption will be maintained. KP chief minister’s spokesperson Shaukat Yousafzai also said that the Prime Minister has also agreed to the exemption and has assured that it will be granted.

The Pata lawmakers maintain that the inclusion of Pata in Fata-KP merger is unjustified and if the government wants to change the status of Pata, it should announce a monetary package for the area. Meanwhile, KP minister Shaukat Yousafzai held a meeting with Federal Law Minister Zafarullah Khan and apprised him about the issues the provincial government is facing in getting the bill passed from the assembly.

Yousufzai told media that the federal government has promised to resolve the concerns raised by Pata lawmakers. Lawmakers of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl and Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (Pata) have expressed their reservations over the Fata-KP merger bill. Before start of the KP Assembly session, a clash between JUI-F workers and police was witnessed outside the building of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, injuring several. While as many as 20 were arrested by police.