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Income tax details of real estate tycoon: Chairman Senate refers matter to concerned committee

After government inability to share the income tax details of Malik Riaz, chief executive Behria Town, Chairman Senate Farooq H. Naik on Tuesday referred the matter to concerned committee of the house. The Senate Standing Committee on Finance will take up the issue related to the income tax assessed and paid by the Bahria Town chief executive during the last three years, which will submit its report to the house soon.

In a written reply to a question raised by Senator Zahid Khan, finance minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh said that under Section 216 of Income Tax Ordinance, read with clause (xv) of rule 47 of Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business, 1988 debars disclosure 'in relation to any matter in respect of which, there is a constitutional or statutory obligation not to disclose the information.'

This infuriated some senators including Zahid Khan, who also revealed that Bahria Town chief executive had to pay Rs 2 billion as income tax to Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) as only Rs 280 million was paid by him. Zahid further said that as a result of some illegal deal between FBR officials and the Behria town administration Rs 1.72 billion were written off by the government.

He came down hard on the government, saying if the politicians were bound to declare their assets, why information pertaining to a businessman could not be provided to the parliament. State Minister for Production Khawaja Shiraz Mehmood, who was replying to the question, had nothing to say except that Income Tax Ordinance, read with clause (XV) of Rule 47 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business, 1988 debars disclosure and not to public such information.

Another ANP Senator Haji Adeel said that the minister should come fully prepare to answer the questions of lawmakers in the house as he has very little know-how of property law. Senator Safder Abbasi of PPP said that government should declare details of assets pertaining to the property tycoons in light of 1973 Constitution, as every institution whether private or public was bound to declare its assets accordingly.

Senators across the party lines demanded the government to declare annexure pertaining to the property of Malik Riaz, chief executive Bahria Town. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Senator Raja Zafarul Haq said Senate must be briefed on the issue. If the matter can be discussed in the committee, why not in the house, he questioned after Senator Zafar Ali Shah pointed out some legal points which don't bar the government to make the property related matters public.

Meanwhile, chairman Senate prorogued the 76th session when ANP leaders wanted to move a resolution, asking international community to step in and force Israel to end its siege on Gaza. The resolution demanded immediate action through all diplomatic, cultural and economic means on Israel for ending violation of human rights in Palestine.

"A consensus should be developed before passing the resolution," said Senate Chairman, asking Senator Haji Adeel, mover of the motion, to develop consensus with parliamentary leaders on the matter. Now all parliamentary leaders will discuss the matter and likely to table the resolution in next session of Senate.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2011