New Delhi: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s third ‘amnesty scheme’ since 2018, which will allow industrialists to ‘turn their black money into white’, isn’t just another U-turn from his pre-office days but also a “slap on the face of poor people”, according to many Pakistanis. Unsurprisingly, Pakistani media and social media users had a critical take on it.
So, what’s the scheme? Pakistani industrialists can invest in the country’s manufacturing sector and set up new units at a 5 per cent tax rate without any fear of an investigation on the source of investment. Moreover, companies can acquire ‘sick industrial units’ and avail tax benefits for three years. For overseas Pakistanis, the scheme provides them the facility to freely take back the profits after making investment. The cut-off date to avail the amnesty scheme is December 2022.
Several social media users called out PM Khan on his ‘hypocrisy’, pointing out that he had earlier criticised the amnesty scheme on several occasions. They dug up Khan’s past tweets calling the scheme an unfair policy that rewarded “tax evaders” while penalising honest taxpayers.
— Raza Zaidi (@Razaazaidi) March 1, 2022
Addressing a ceremony in Lahore on Tuesday, Imran Khan said that the decision was taken to bolster industrial development. “A country develops when there is wealth creation, without it they cannot move forward,” he said, adding that government policies that are against profit-making can be detrimental to growth of industry and investment opportunities.
‘Legalising’ black money
Despites Imran Khan’s optimistic speech, many Pakistani journalists appeared to be wary of the ‘amnesty scheme’.
Dawn‘s Khalid Hasnain wrote how Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, which prided itself as being a party valuing transparency, was “legalising ill-gotten wealth”. Hasnain quoted an expert from Sustainable Development Policy Institute, who said that it “wasn’t good for the economy” and it was a “political move and nothing more.”
An editorial in Business Recorder argued that the scheme could act as a “disincentive to the honest taxpayers, a claim made not only repeatedly by the IMF but also by the Prime Minister before he took oath.”
“The number of amnesty schemes rivals almost the number of IMF programmes that Pakistan has taken and it must be borne in mind that none of the schemes has generated a significant amount of foreign exchange,” the editorial further said.
Helping the ‘crooks’
One Pakistani journalist said Imran Khan’s scheme was meant for “crooks” and “fraudsters”, with Twitter users largely agreeing with it.
Tax amnesty schemes are given by thieves to crooks and fraudsters and these schemes are a slap on the face of poor people: Imran Khan/Asad Umar pic.twitter.com/we9FeBPGJE
— Murtaza Ali Shah (@MurtazaViews) March 1, 2022
One user called it a “slap on the face of poor people” while another remarked how PTI “continues to roll out the red carpet for tax evaders” and only those at the bottom of the food chain will be prevented from availing it.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Amnesty continues to roll out the red carpet for tax evaders.
Argument will be “jobs for workers and economic growth for the country.”
If you’re unable to avail this scheme in Pakistan, then you’re at the bottom of the food chain. https://t.co/CtfBFGMnfO
— Uzair Younus عُزیر یُونس (@UzairYounus) March 1, 2022
A short journey from Haram to Halal Amnesty Scheme. Everything is being done by PTI govt to protect tens of millions made by aleema khan through unexplained sources, using charitable money. It’s all in the family, for the family and to the family. All hail Naya Pakistan pic.twitter.com/lm68vzMjWO
— Murtaza Ali Shah (@MurtazaViews) January 24, 2019
Irrespective of bitter criticism, there were supporters of Imran Khan who hailed it as “the most successful amnesty scheme ever launched.”
Total registered- 1 lac 37 thousands
Assets declared- 3000 billion
Tax collected- 70 billion
This is most successful amnesty scheme Pakistan has ever launched.
— Ali Raza (@AliRazaTweets) July 4, 2019
PM has announced another amnesty scheme. I don’t know about its merit but if status quo parties and lafafay criticise it , then it must be a very good scheme for Pakistan
— PoliticalGuru (@PoliticalGuru3) March 1, 2022
The supporters believed that it was Imran Khan’s way of “rejecting” western leverage imposed through IMF and FATF.
By reducing energy prices and recent amnesty scheme, #Pakistan has rejected the western leverage imposed through #IMF and #FATF. Whether our Eastern allies will support us through this is yet to be seen. Hope #ImranKhan has a sound plan, because western pressure has many forms.
— Raja Ali (@Rajazzs) March 2, 2022
Source: The Print