JI seeks tax-free status for Malakand for another 10 years

By Yousaf Ali
May 27, 2023

PESHAWAR: The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Friday urged the federal government to maintain the tax-free status of Malakand division for another 10 years and include in the next finance bill before June 30 or else the people of the districts concerned would launch a long march towards Islamabad and stage a sit-in there till acceptance of their demand.


The demand was made at a joint press conference by provincial deputy chief of the party Inayatullah Khan, JI member in the National Assembly Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali, former provincial finance minister and a strong voice for the rights of the people of Malakand division Shah Raz Khan, and JI president Upper Chitral Maulana Javed Hussain,

Inayatullah Khan said that Malakand division was having a special status since its accession to Pakistan in 1960s. The region had been exempted from taxes on the basis of the extreme poverty and underdevelopment.

However, the region was making a great contribution to the national kitty in the form of non-tax revenue. He said that a huge number of the people hailing from various districts of Malakand division were sending remittances from abroad mainly from the gulf countries. The remittances sent by the people of the Malakand division from abroad amounted to billions, he said.

Similarly, handsome revenue is generated from hydel power, tourism, forests, mines and minerals and other natural resources. In return of the non-tax revenue, the people of Malakand division have all the rights to be given due share in infrastructural and other developments, Inayatullah Khan said.

He said that the Malakand division should be kept exempted from tax until it became on a par with the developed districts of the province. He added that it was in 2018 when the 25th Amendment was made to the Constitution regarding the merger for the former Fata, the matter was discussed that the tax net would be extended to Malakand division.

Sahibzada Tariqullah said that he was a member of the National Assembly then and he took up the issue with the then prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and finance minister Miftah Ismail.

“I urged them to accord a 10-year exemption to the Malakand division from taxes. But they agreed to five years (extendable), which would expire by June 30 this year,” he added. Inayatullah Khan said that as the expiry date of the five-year relaxation was drawing near, the people in the tax department(s) had become active and had started issuing income and property tax notices to the people.

Tax deduction has already been started from government contractors and employees, he said. “This is unacceptable to us. We would resist it. We would stage protest demonstrations in all the districts of the Malakand division. We would unite all the political parties and people of the division on a single point agenda to resist the taxes,” he said.

He warned that shutter-down and wheel-jam strikes would be observed, if their demand is not accepted. Even then, if the tax-free status of the division is not extended and it is not included in the federal finance bill, they would launch a long march towards Islamabad and would stage a sit-in there, he threatened.

Shah Raz Khan said that the province was given a share from the federal divisible pool on the basis of poverty and Malakand division was the poorest region in the province. He stressed that the tax-free status of Malakand division should be maintained till it became developed like other areas of the province.

Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali said that there was no industry, no job opportunities in the entire Malakand division. Therefore, they should not be subjected to the burden of taxes. He said that the situation in Chitral was even worse, adding that like other districts of the division, Chitral was badly affected by the devastating floods.

Several areas and villages of Chitral were washed away by floods, he said. The total cultivable area in Chitral was only 2 percent. The entire district remains completely closed during winter. In such a situation how can tax be imposed on the people of the district, he said. Any bid to impose tax in the district would be sternly resisted, he added.