ISLAMABAD - The election commission, with the assistance of Pakistan’s monetary bodies, is set to tighten noose around the tax-evading politicians through tracking their financial transactions to keep them from contesting the general polls.
The services of Electronic Credit Investigation Bureau (eCIB) at the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) are to be utilised for monitoring the account transactions of the politicians who were not filing their tax returns or were concealing their assets.
The scrutiny of the tax and wealth details would start after the announcement of electoral schedule for the general polls. The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has assured the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that it would verify the politicians’ wealth statements in ten days.
The development follows a meeting between the senior officials of the ECP, SBP, FBR and National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) on Wednesday. Attended by the senior officers of these institutions, the meeting was chaired by ECP Secretary Ishtiak Ahmed Khan. The Provincial Election Commissioners from Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan were also present.
A regulatory mechanism against the tax-evading politicians would expectedly be mapped out in the upcoming meet-up between the SBP Governor Yaseen Anwar, FBR Chairman Ali Arshad Hakeem and Chief Election Commissioner Justice (r) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim expected by the coming Wednesday (February 20.)
Apart from tracking the politicians’ finances through eCIB, it was decided the FBR would verify National Tax Numbers (NTNs), to be filed by the election candidates along with their nomination papers, the FBR would verify (in ten days) their Statement of Assets and Liabilities, and all the relevant institutions would help the ECP find out details of the candidates not filing their tax returns as well as those of the ‘potential’ taxpayers.
According to a statement, the FBR shall formulate its recommendations with reference to desired changes in the current format of declaration of assets to be filed by the candidates with the election commission. Changes would accordingly be made in the nomination papers. The statement quoted the SBP officials as briefing the commission that the information available with eCIB maintained at State Bank contained information on borrowers of financial institutions under its supervision including amount overdues. “State Bank is ready to share information as provided under the relevant law,” the statement added.
Last month, the ECP approved a draft electoral reforms package that requires parliamentary legislation for implementation. The package includes the proposal to increase the period for scrutinising the nomination papers of the candidates contesting general elections from seven to 30 days. Although, the Senate Special Committee on Election Affairs has endorsed the said proposal, it has not put it forth for legislation reportedly because the committee wants that the proposed scrutiny period be reduced from 30 to 15 days.
In case the general polls are held within 60 days after the NA dissolution, a bill seeking increase in the scrutiny period will have to be passed from the parliament by two-thirds majority to allow the ECP and monetary institutions to effectively scrutinise the candidates’ tax and wealth details. However, if the national assembly is dissolved earlier with more than 60 and not more than 90 days remaining to conduct the general polls, simple majority in the parliament would be required to pass the bill on increasing the scrutiny period of nomination papers (provided that the bill is presented.)
Credible electoral experts including SM Zafar and Kanwar Dilshad argue that the scrutiny period can be increased through a Presidential Ordinance if the general polls are to be held within 60 days after NA dissolution.