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June 11, 2019

Whose Pakistan is this?


June 11, 2019

The tax on tobacco sales, an established cause for cancer, cardiac-related ailments and health-related issues, should have been raised prohibitively higher to such a level to make tobacco products unaffordable and prevent addiction by our younger generation. Taxes which come within domain of 'sin tax' are levied not just to raise revenue but to divert these funds to run hospitals which cater to patients affected by tobacco consumption and not dilute allocated health budget which is already insufficient to provide basic health facilities. Unfortunately, super bureaucrats and retired super khakis employed by the tobacco industry serve as lobbyists to protect them from increased taxation. This proposed Rs10 tax on every packet of cigarette sold is insufficient to achieve the basic objective which is to prevent addiction by making it unaffordable. The tax should be Rs100 on the cheapest brand. Similarly, tax on the smallest bottle of fizzy drinks should be raised by a minimum of Rs10 not just Re1 only. Succumbing to pressure from the politically powerful sugar and bottled carbonated drink industry will harm our future generations and result in obesity etc. Sugar serves as a catalyst for cancer.

In countries where the state and its institutions provide welfare to citizens, direct taxation is levied on all sources of income. It is only when all existing sources of income have been exhausted that indirect taxes are levied because they adversely impact poor and those who evade or pay taxes evenly. In Pakistan, the irony is that indirect taxes are levied to give subsidies to the affluent elite and tax evaders and beneficiaries of subsidized real-estate allotment, land mafia dons and the feudal lobby. Since 2017, benami assets have been declared illegal and punishments legislated, yet repeated amnesty schemes. This is not Jinnah’s Pakistan.

Malik Tariq


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