It is worth appreciation that in sharp contrast to the style of leadership of Nawaz Sharif, who did not give importance to holding cabinet meetings for decision making, Prime Minister Imran Khan has reset the precedent of regularly convening the meetings of his cabinet and some time its periodicity is increased. He gives maxim time to the day- to-day affairs of the state. The federal cabinet in its Thursday meeting took decision about formulating a policy about Afghan Refugees; pursuing tax defaulters; and proscribing Al-Rehman Trust.
A few days ago the Prime Minister hinted in his statement about the possibility of giving nationality to Aghan Refugees, which invited mixed response from the leadership of Pukhtun and Bloch Nationalist parties. Head of Baluchistan Nationalist Party, Sardar Akhtar Mengal opposed the idea of granting citizenship to Afghan refugees for the cogent reason that it will create a demographic imbalance in the restive Baluchistan province. The Chief of Awami National Party, Asfandiayr Wali ridiculed it by saying that Afghan Nationals do not need charity of granting nationality. Such a sweeping statement reflected his lost love for the Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The repeatedly extended deadline for the stay of Afghan Refugees expires today; however, the government will issue a notification for extending it for further three months. While briefing the media after cabinet meeting, federal information minister Fawad Chaudhry said that the legal stay period of Afghan Refugees will end in June, 2019. “Pakistan has two options. Either to continue with status quo or move forward to resolve the issue once for all,” the information minister told.
The data about the crimes like murders, kidnapping for ransom, money extortion from businessmen and terror attacks reveal the involvement of Afghan Refugees in these social evils. It is an established fact that terrorists from their sanctuaries sneaked into Pakistan, get morphed with Afghan refugees and carry out terrorist attacks. Before taking any decision about the fate of Afghan Refugees thorough consultation with state institution should be made. The fencing along Pak-Afghan border signifies curbing of illegal cross border movement of Afghan nationals and this factor must not be ignored. The repatriation of Afghan Refugees is on and 42000 Afghans have gone home over the past six month. The repatriation process needs to be expedited.
The Afghan nationals who hold permit of residency or the ones who are unregistered fall within the category of war refugees who must go back when war ends in Afghanistan through a political settlement, the prospects of which are emerging. Germany and other member countries of the European have decided to send back the war refugees from Syria and Afghanistan when peace returns to these war ravaged countries. How can a virtually bankrupt country like Pakistan afford the luxury of giving citizenship to 24 million plus refugees?
Launching of robust campaign against tax defaulters is long overdue. But there is a glaring contradiction in the government policy of expanding the tax base. The non-filers have been rewarded by allowing them to purchase expensive vehicles and valuable immovable assets by virtue of amended finance bill tabled in the parliament. There seems no justification to delay the usage of available data of 3.8 million wealthy people, who are out the tax net. The World Bank has repeatedly insisted on bringing these people into the tax net. In President Musharraf era, 2.4 million people paid direct taxes and now one million people pay tax out of 220 million. Poor people of the country are paying a barrage of regressive indirect taxes.
The futile modus operendi of proscribing trust organisations, which afterwards starts functioning under new nomenclatures, will not convince the international community about the decisive action of new leadership in Pakistan against the proscribed organisations. The half hearted actions against the proscribed organisations banned militant outfits and their political umbrellas and money laundering will not suffice to build a case for removing Pakistan from the FATF grey-list. A clear and comprehensive policy against money laundering and terror financing must be worked out and implemented by taking on board the opposition parties so that the entire political leadership should take its ownership.