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Thursday, 15 June, 2000, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
Should Pakistanis pay more tax?

The military government in Pakistan is involved in an increasingly bitter dispute with the country's business community over tax.

A lengthy strike is underway, which in some places has turned violent.

The government is targeting the huge black economy, and is clamping down on those avoiding tax by conducting a nationwide survey.

But business leaders say the government is acting ruthlessly, and they fear that extra tax payments will simply end up in the pockets of corrupt officials.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction

I believe that people in Pakistan should pay taxes but the amount of tax they pay should be in proportion to their income. This would help to lessen the ever-widening gap between rich and poor in Pakistan. The Government should guarantee that the tax collected would be used to provide benefits for the poor.
W. Naqvi, UK



We want assurances that the money will not be used for futile military purposes, but for the development of our kids

Maqbool Pasha, Pakistan
I am a small businessman in Pakistan and here is what we need and expect in order to pay taxes. We want assurances that the money will not be used for futile military purposes, but for the development of our kids. We also want to be assured that the money will escape corrupt officials. That's all we need.
Maqbool Pasha, Pakistan

How else is a country to generate money or should they continue to rely on handouts from the IMF and dance to the tune of the World Bank in order to service those loans? Welcome to the real world!
Ahmed, Spain



The tax system of the Netherlands should be a basis for Pakistan

A Khan, UK
I think the wealthy should pay tax. There is a huge divide and they have a responsibility to pay a higher rate of tax. The tax system of the Netherlands should be a basis for Pakistan.
A Khan, UK

No, the Pakistani people should not pay a single penny. The interest that IMF and World Bank sucks from the poor people of a poor nation should be cut off and the problem of tax will be solved.
Yosef, USA



Tax evasion is a way of life for the common people. They do not consider it dishonest and feel that it is their right to pay as little as possible

Rahul Dhir, UK
Both India and Pakistan are in a similar situation where rampant corruption is an everyday process. Tax evasion is a way of life for the common people. They do not consider it dishonest and feel that it is their right to pay as little as possible. They consider the governments to be corrupt and dishonest. They also want them to tidy up their act and then run their country with strong and honest leadership.
Rahul Dhir, UK

They should not pay more taxes, otherwise the government will have more money to buy more weapons to bomb India with.
Rajiv Gupta, India

I think that Pakistan should join together with Iran and all Arabic countries to form a strong economy. Musharaf is the best ruler that Pakistan ever had in this century. I think that this reunification will come very soon.
Thomas, Germany

The majority of Pakistani people are honest. No one can be blamed if they don't want to pay taxes after Bhutto, Sharif and all the other cronies have looted the country. The military is no different. Musharaf may be a good man but how about the rest? If he doesn't keep the army generals below him happy, how can he stay in power?
Gobind, USA



I have never seen or heard of a more selfish community and it disgusts me knowing that our country is full of people like these

Fahad, Pakistan
I strongly believe that Musharaf has good intentions and he is doing all he can to help the country get out of financial crisis. As we all know that the tax paying population is extremely small in Pakistan, there is an urgent need to enlarge this. This is exactly what Musharaf is doing. Pakistan got a sincere leader after a long time and we must not let this opportunity go.
Adeel Jafri, Canada

I believe that Pakistanis should pay taxes on their income. The only reason for not doing so is because they believe their money will go in the wrong hands. This is because they have no faith in those who have been running their country since independence.
Arshad Hasan Khan, Australia

It is shameful for Pakistan that the tradesmen are saying that they won't pay taxes. They don't want to pay because then their incomes will be documented and therefore taxable. These traders are willing to sacrifice the future of a nation just to keep more money in their pockets. Shame on them! I have never seen or heard of a more selfish community and it disgusts me knowing that our country is full of people like these.
Fahad, Pakistan

It's about time that we all realise that you cannot just run the country on foreign loans. People of Pakistan, should finance their own government, instead of making it dependent on foreign aid.
Gohar Waqar, USA

The traders have a valid concern. However, they must understand that nothing is free. The economy needs to be documented and a fair tax structure put in place.
Hamad lone, Saudi Arabia



Where is the proof that the new tax revenues will not go into the pockets of some general living in a luxurious villa?

Jay, Canada
With all of the national revenue going towards debt servicing and defence, Pakistani authorities (both military and political) have squandered every penny paid by the taxpayers of Pakistan. Where is the proof that the new tax revenues will not go into the pockets of some general living in a luxurious villa?
Jay, Canada

Traders should not pay a single penny of additional taxes to this dictatorial regime which is illegitimate since the people did not elect it. Why should they pay tax to it, especially since it is 100% guaranteed that none of that money is going to come back as social services? If the government can assure the people that all this money will be injected into the Pakistani economy, then by all means they can raise the taxes by however much they like.
Kamal Munir, Canada

Excuses, excuses, excuses. That's all the striking small/ large businessmen have for not paying taxes. Pakistanis who earn above a certain threshold should be made to pay taxes. There are no two ways about it. Anybody who doesn't pay taxes should have his property confiscated and then be told to leave the country. He can go wherever he wishes outside Pakistan and not pay taxes there.
Arif Malik, USA



Anybody who doesn't pay taxes should have his property confiscated and then be told to leave the country

Arif Malik, USA
The complaints of the traders are legitimate. Musharraf needs to be sensitive to their fears and win their trust gradually. A big stick will cause resentment and alienation. It is not a formula for success.
M. Kamran Khan, USA

A military government bending over backwards to please the rich in the quest for legitimacy is quite amusing and quite unprecedented in Pakistan. Musharraf and the army are trying to make the middle class responsible for carrying Pakistan out of the considerable problems our unique brand of democracy has landed us in and it is heartening to see that the working people are having none of it.
Jawad, Pakistan/ Canada

If we need money just to increase terrorism and encourage extremist then better not to pay tax. We are just doing foolish things by accumulating weapons instead of maintaining the economy.
Aslam, Pakistan/ USA



The people are convinced that the money is going to end up nowhere as usual

Asif Hameed, Pakistan/USA
People in Pakistan are sick of failures. That's why no one is interested in paying tax. Government should realise this and show some fruit to the people of exercise as well. Because they (the people) are convinced that the money is going to end up nowhere as usual. So it's between a rock and hard place but it's time our attitudes changed.
Asif Hameed, Karachi, Pakistan/USA

This is not a question of paying MORE taxes. The problem is how many are really paying taxes honestly. The middle class person is forced to pay the taxes but corrupt bureaucracy has spared the higher class. Look at the tax figures they pay.
It's really a shame how they are looting the country. Traders are afraid to pay the tax under the new system because they know it will reveal their true income.
Ahmad Anwar, Pakistan



The situation is quite hopeless, can only get worse - and there is no viable solution in sight

Eklavya Sareen, UK
The trouble with Pakistan's fiscal position is that the tax money it does raise it wastes on futile military expenditure that serves no ones interests except for the dictatorial Army. If Musharraf is able to decrease the army's appetite for wasteful expenditure, then perhaps he can begin to make a case for higher taxation.
Those who feel that the extra taxes will simply be squandered by corrupt government and military officials are also not far from the mark. The situation is quite hopeless, can only get worse, and there is no viable solution in sight.
Eklavya Sareen, UK

If the people of Pakistan want their country to be successful like all European countries then they must pay tax to the government, because this is the only way to become independent of all other nations. Allah has never changed the condition of a nation unless the nation itself thinks of changing their condition.
Ilyas, England



People of Pakistan must join hands with the regime in their efforts to restore the down-going economy

BT SHEIKH, France
I think that among other revolutionary steps towards the stabilisation of the country and its economy, the tax evaluation survey is absolutely justified by the present government. People of Pakistan must join hands with the regime in their efforts to restore the down-going economy. The endeavours of the government to control the corruption and to eliminate the corrupt are to be appreciated. By paying taxes, we can contribute to the nation building.
BT SHEIKH, France

A nation of 148 million people and only 1.2 million people pay taxes. No wonder the country is in debt. Taxes are vital for Pakistan's economy. Government expenditure in Pakistan is around 600 billion rupees while the income is only 360 billion rupees. That does mean that the government needs to increase taxes or take a bagging bowl to the IMF.
Tayyab, Pakistani in UK

Surely the leaders of this country should start collecting from the top. They are the ones who are evading the taxes. The man on the street earning a few hundred rupees a month selling mangoes or pakoras is not going to reap hundreds of thousands in taxes and yet they will be hardest hit.
Ackeel Rahman, UK



It is shameful when the rich traders act so greedy when the country desperately needs their co-operation and aid

Mohammed Arif, Pakistan
The idea of paying taxes in nothing new, it is meant to help the government's money woes and allow the opportunity to offer something back to the country. It is shameful when the rich traders act so greedy when the country desperately needs their co-operation and aid. It is a matter of self respect and it seems these traders and showing their lack of it.
Mohammed Arif, Pakistan

This goes to show how integrated corruption has become in society. The traders are refusing to pay taxes, yet they still want to be able to enjoy all the benefits of public goods. The government is taking the correct tact of making the tax system simpler to understand and allowing them to have a share in the prosperity of the country.
The tax policies are very promising, and the traders should stop their resistance and realise the responsibility (and opportunity) they have to improve the quality of life of Pakistanis.
Adil Siddiqi, USA

Pakistani people can just show patriotism and love for their country in their words and speeches. When it comes to action they back down. That's exactly what we are seeing right now.
Murad Ansari, USA



Both Pakistan and India have woefully inadequate tax-collection systems with too many loopholes

Srinivas Rangaraj, Canada
Pakistan is passing through a major transformation. If we do not pay the taxes which are so vital for the economic revival we will be economically doomed.
Mukhtar Ali, Pakistan

Yes, Pakistanis should pay more taxes. The recent strikes and protests show that the people are all talk when it comes to patriotism and development, and do not really wish to sacrifice individually for the good of their nation.
S. Ali Ahmed, Canada

Small traders in Pakistan have been doing business for decades without paying a single penny in taxes. It is high time they should start paying their dues to the country which provides them a good living. Musharaff should stick to his guns. We need a person who says something and goes ahead and does it.
Bilal Bin Iqbal, USA

Unless one does business in Pakistan it's impossible to understand the situation. I, as a businessman, have to pay the police so that I do not get harassed as well as the local party thugs so that they do not create trouble for me. Every now and then my electrical bill is miscalculated so to get it corrected, I have to pay a bribe. Every now and then the janitor will block my sewer line so I have to pay him to get it opened.
Ali Raza, Pakistan

I don't understand why my beloved countrymen don't want to pay taxes. They should bear in mind that this is the only way to make our country strong. We all want to see beautiful highways and bridges, but nobody realises where would the money come from for that. I believe that General Musharraf is doing the right thing and it should have been done many decades ago.
Malik Muhammad, USA

Both Pakistan and India have woefully inadequate tax-collection systems with too many loopholes. If the infrastructure is to be improved, tax collection and the subsequent proper allocation of funds is vital. I'd also recommend that only people who pay taxes be allowed to vote. After all, if you don't pay your dues to society, you have no moral right to determine who governs that society. This will also ensure that middle-class sensible people get the vote and not ruffians and anti-social elements.
Srinivas Rangaraj, Canada

Random estimates of Pakistan's informal economy, which the government is trying to document, rank it larger than the formal "tax paying" sector. If the military government can pull this survey off, on its terms, it will have done a great service to the country.
Sheraz Mian, USA



It's a bitter pill that simply has to be swallowed by Pakistan if it is to become a dynamic economy

Hamza Shehryar, USA
It is a pathetic demonstration by the Pakistani traders refusing to accept their responsibilities towards the country. They earn billions yet they pay no tax. The only tax paying circle in Pakistan is the government officials, who get their pay after tax deductions. I am very pleased to see the firm stand of the Pakistani government on this issue.
Imran Lakhwera, USA

It's a bitter pill that simply has to be swallowed by Pakistan if it is to become a dynamic economy. The phasing in of the taxes could perhaps have been gradual but given the time constraints that international and domestic forces have placed on the regime, I think they are proceeding forward in the best possible way.
Hamza Shehryar, USA

In theory yes, Pakistanis should have to pay their taxes. However, it seems that these new proposals will only hit the average shopkeeper who makes a reasonable living. How about all those big businesses owned by the powerful elite? They are the worst offenders. It's probably more politically viable to pick on the "little people" rather then the politically influential "big people". So why not start tax collection at the top?
N. Khan, London, UK

I believe by asking people to pay taxes Mr Musharraf has shown that he has the guts to taken up the core issues centring on Pakistan. But, as is very apparent this is an uphill task and if the people of Pakistan still love and care about their own country then they should help their government bring the country back on track.
Ganesh, India/USA

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See also:

06 Jun 00 | South Asia
Pakistan firm on tax reforms
05 Jun 00 | South Asia
Pakistan tax strike turns violent
31 May 00 | South Asia
No change over Pakistan tax
30 May 00 | South Asia
Pakistan traders stay shut
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