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November 27, 2018

Re-imposition of cellphone tax for dams: Nation’s ‘yes’ needed for go-ahead, says CJP

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November 27, 2018

LONDON: The Supreme Court had suspended the Withholding Tax on the top-up of cellphone prepaid cards and if the nation allows it, then we can reimpose it to collect money for Mohmand and Diamer-Bhasha dams.

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Mian Saqib Nisar said this while addressing a dam fundraising gathering here arranged by the UK Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “It will not be appropriate to impose taxes to collect funds for dams; however, we had earlier suspended the Withholding Tax on the top-up of prepaid cards by cellphone service providers and learnt that through this Rs3 billion was saved per month,” he said.

Justice Nisar urged the nation to put forth their viewpoints on his proposal. Terming failure to construct dams earlier a criminal negligence, he said, “A dam needs to be constructed on every inch of the Indus River. The Indus belongs to us under the Indus Waters Treaty.” He expressed the hope that one day all the four provinces will agree on the construction of Kalabagh Dam.

Justice Nisar said Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand Dams Fund was a public property and he’ll hand it over to secure hands before leaving the office. He said the dams fund initiative had become a movement and a movement of this magnitude could not be shut down or rolled back easily.

“When people realise that their future and the future of their children is at stake, then they own the movement. I don’t see any reason why it will fail after my retirement. I cannot imagine that anyone will even imagine closing it down or even think about it,” he said. He said the dams’ initiative was for humanity and it related to the lives of tens of thousands of people. He said the fact that no dam had been built in 40 years was criminal negligence.

“Karachi’s water crisis made me realise how crucial this issue is,” he added. “Tanker mafia and some others have been controlling the water supply in Karachi and in Lahore and Quetta the level of underground water is decreasing,” Justice Nisar asserted.

He said construction of dams was no longer only Pakistan’s campaign but humanity’s. The chief justice once again reassured that he will safeguard every penny donated to the dams fund and that he will leave the nation’s money in safe hands before retirement. “I will make a company to ensure this,” he added.

“These funds are a loan from the nation and I will hand them over to a trustworthy person before leaving.” Justice Nisar further thanked the government and those who had contributed to the dams fund. He said the country had spent much time deliberating construction of essential reservoirs and now the time had come to build dams. He said climate change had reduced rains across the world, including Pakistan, due to which the underground water level was falling sharply.

He said water level in Pakistan was falling sharply, affecting daily life in all big and small cities. Justice Saqib Nisar said during a visit to Karachi, he took suo motu notice of illegal water hydrants and also took action against the water mafia that was selling water to citizens at a very high price.

He said the dams fund campaign had remained highly successful. “All, including children and elderly persons, are enthusiastic about construction of dams. This is not an ordinary situation but it has become a campaign now.”

The chief justice said the Sikh community from foreign countries, transgender community and children and elderly persons had donated to the dams fund. At the fundraiser, the UKPCCI pledged to donate £1million for the fund.

“Be it earthquakes, floods or the dengue challenge, British Pakistanis always come forward to help their fellow Pakistanis emotionally as well as financially,” Kamran Khan of UKPCCI said. He added: “We have vowed to raise one million pounds for the Dams Fund.” He praised the efforts of Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar.

“The need for dams has been talked about for more than a decade, but plans to practically collect funds and to materialise construction were given a new drive not by water experts or ministers but by Pakistan's honourable Chief Justice.” A record amount of £2.3 million has been raised for the dams at the Geo television Network’s live telethon from Manchester.

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