Traders oppose imposition of corporate tax in Gilgit-Baltistan

DESIGN: ESSA MALIK

GILGIT (ET): With the Gilgit-Baltistan government likely to impose corporate tax, traders have decided to resist the move, terming it ‘unconstitutional.’

“How is it possible to impose corporate tax in a disputed region which is not even a part of Pakistan as per the constitution?” said Jumma Khan, president of the Gilgit Traders Union at a meeting held here on Wednesday.

The traders, who met to discuss their future course of action, said they would go on an indefinite strike against the move which they termed ‘unconstitutional,’ as the country’s constitution had not been extended to Gilgit-Baltistan. “We have decided to continue our strike unless the decision is taken back,” one trader said.

Earlier this week, Gilgit-Baltistan Council Member Amjad Hussain had issued a statement about the likely imposition of corporate tax in Gilgit-Baltistan in October. “The affluent businessmen, corporations and companies will be taxed from October onwards,” the statement said, adding that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was going to chair a meeting of the Gilgit-Baltistan Council to formally announce the decision. Hussain said that the imposition of tax was inevitable for the region’s economic stability.

Besides the business community, nationalist parties in Gilgit-Baltistan have also opposed the imposition of corporate tax on the pretext that constitutionally the region’s status was disputed due to the unresolved Kashmir issue. “What I say is very simple, ‘no taxation without representation’,” said Nawaz Khan Naji, chairman of the Balawaristan National Front (BNF).

He further said that Gilgit-Baltistan didn’t have any representation in the National Assembly and the Senate of Pakistan because of its disputed status. “Give us representation in parliament first if you want to tax us,” he said.

Following the Empowerment and Self-Governance Order 2009, general elections were held in Gilgit-Baltistan under the new political setup. According to the order, the region’s status was upgraded and brought on a par with that of a province, with the appointment of a chief minister and a governor for the first time in the region’s history.

The PPP formed the government in Gilgit-Baltistan with Mehdi Shah as its chief minister. However, the issue of representation in the Senate and the National Assembly remains unresolved.

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