Oct 17, 2017

Gilgit-Baltistan: Business Community Protest Federal Government Decision to Increase Tax While Continuing to Deny Representation

Photo Courtesy of Junaidrao @ Flickr

Gilgit-Baltistan’s business community have been protesting against unfair taxes imposed upon them without a reciprocal further increase in their representation in the central decision making process. Although the government maintain that the money for development projects in the area come from federal resources, it has been noted that these resources are nothing compared to the increased needs of the area now with CPEC making headway. Furthermore, the irony of increasing taxes on a population while denying their representation where these taxes are decided does not go unnoticed. 

Below is an article published by Dawn

Once again, Gilgit-Baltistan’s business community is protesting against the taxes imposed on them, without an increase in their representation at the central decision-making level and without further empowering the GB government, which remains a ‘sub-federating unit’. And once again, they have a point. One of the taxes at issue is the withholding amount on bank transactions of non-filers of income tax returns, which has been a challenge since residents here are not required to file tax returns with the federal government. Each time they conduct bank transactions, an amount is deducted from their account and there is no remedy. This is only one example of the myriad costs imposed upon the citizens of these areas.

The government can argue that most of the resources to fund the Rs54bn budget of GB comes from federal resources, as well as the Rs18bn development programme and the Rs3.3bn under the PSDP. But the fact of the matter is these resources are paltry by comparison to the requirements of the area, especially given the heightened significance the region is going to acquire as CPEC makes headway. The region is the only overland entry point for the corridor, and the rapid pace at which the centre has committed funds for CPEC-related projects, such as the Gilgit-Shandoor road and the Gilgit-Jaglot road, shows that when its own interests are involved, the federal government can suddenly locate the funds and pass them off as being used for the benefit of the inhabitants of the area. But the real sentiments of GB’s inhabitants were evident in the protest in Gilgit, launched from Skardu; they demanded that more taxes should not be levied on the people until greater progress had been made in terms of incorporating them into the federation as equals. It is hard to disagree with this logic, and the federal authorities should realise the enormously unfair act of taxing a population while denying them representation in the decision-making bodies where these taxes are decided.