State donations, tax evasion and the rule of law – Opinion

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“Qui sentit commodum, sente debet et onus” This famous legal maxim states that those who receive a benefit must also bear the burden. Former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who succumbed to a vote of no confidence tabled by the opposition, is now being criticized for unfairly taking advantage of his position and keeping state gifts at ridiculous prices. Based on the information that has surfaced so far, it appears that Imran Khan and the First Lady acted recklessly in withholding every gift presented to them while representing the State of Pakistan.

It is a courteous norm for foreign governments and their leaders to offer gifts – tokens of gratitude – to their counterparts, – it is indeed reprehensible to say that Imran Khan sold these gifts on the open market to reap big profits. It might have earned him a few extra bucks, but as a nation it embarrassed everyone.

The issue at hand is of a legal and technical nature. But the most regrettable is the lack of decorum in the office of the former prime minister, who loves to preach ethics and moral values. He did quite the opposite while in office. The Toshakhana episode paints a negative image of an executive head of state defying democratic and diplomatic norms for personal gain.

Sections of the media have alleged that while he was in office, Imran Khan’s tax returns did not contain information on gifts received until the 2020-21 financial year. Apparently, the former Prime Minister and First Lady did not disclose these valuable items on tax returns for over three years, until the media revealed the same. There are lower value charges for acquiring a few freebies, for example, as low as Rs 3,500 only. As Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan and his wife kept seven Rolex watches, several necklaces, bracelets, rings, several diamond chains, gold pens and even dinner sets by paying small sums of money.

In accordance with section 12 read together with section 13(11) of the Income Tax Order 2001, the proceeds of donations were taxable as benefits derived from the performance of office. Failure to declare the same also attracts Article 62 (1) (f) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan [“the Constitution”] as was done to disqualify Nawaz Sharif.

The golden principle of the law “fiat justitiaruatcaelum”, i.e. justice be done even if the heavens fall, demands that the courts follow the law in true letter and spirit without any fear or favor . Previously on Muhammad Hanif Abbasi vs Imran Khan Niazi [PLD 2018 SC 189]it was established that Imran Khan held assets through an offshore company, namely Niazi Services Limited (NSL), which was established in 1983. Even though Mr Khan purchased the London flat in 1983, two years after becoming an income tax filer in Pakistan. in 1981 he disclosed neither NSL nor the London flat in his income/wealth tax returns.

In accordance with applicable laws, even if foreign income as a non-resident was the source of funding for the London flat, it was an asset which he was required to disclose on his income tax return. wealth under the old Wealth Tax Act 1963 after becoming a tax filer in 1981. There was a continuing failure to pay taxes due until he availed himself of the wealth tax scheme. tax amnesty of 2000 – although he had earlier said that these amnesties were a tool of facilitation for tax evaders at the expense of law-abiding citizens. However, he was one of the main beneficiaries of the tax amnesty program proposed by General Pervez Musharraf in 2000.

Although Imran Khan is very fond of Western democracies, he must be aware that when a person lies in the performance of the noble task of legislating and administering the affairs of a state in a government office, he does not has no place in politics.

Imran Khan must clarify his position in another case related to raising funds for flood victims with the promise to build houses. It is said that despite a lapse of more than a decade, no houses have been built, and no explanation has been given regarding the use of this money. Now, once again, Imran Khan has said that ‘Mr. Clean’, is being accused of inaccuracies in his tax returns while in the most powerful post of Prime Minister. After his ousting, he knows the consequences of such failures.

Thus, he takes advantage of his political position and tries to wreak havoc in the country for personal political gain to get away with all the violations and shortcomings he has committed during his tenure. During his last days in office, his act of “violating” the constitution and trying to use its authority, then built a false narrative against the judiciary for upholding the constitution, then “defaming” the armed for its neutral role and played with the national security of the country was nothing but to hold on to power without realizing the damage done to the state, the constitution and the nation.

Either way, it is the responsibility of the relevant agencies to investigate these matters without compromising his fundamental rights under Section 10A of the Constitution and to settle these matters once and for all without offering him the special treatment from which it has benefited in the past. The public has the right to know the truth about all financial and tax affairs of men in khaki or mufti and if anyone is caught abusing his authority for personal gain, he should be reprimanded without fear or favor if democracy and the rule of law is to flourish in Pakistan.

(Huzaima Bukhari & Dr. Ikramul Haq, Lawyers and Partners of Huzaima, Ikram & Ijaz, are Adjunct Professors at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Advisory Board Members and Visiting Principal Scholars of Pakistan Institute of Management Development Economics (PIDE). Abdul Rauf Shakoori is a US-based corporate lawyer and expert in White Collar Crimes and Sanctions Compliance. They recently co-authored a book, Pakistan Tackling FATF: Challenges and Solutions. The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of a newspaper)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022


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