FBR chief says UAE agrees to share tax information of Pakistani investors 

A policeman walks past the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) office building in Islamabad, August 29, 2018. (REUTERS/File)
Updated 14 October 2019

FBR chief says UAE agrees to share tax information of Pakistani investors 

  • FBR chairman says tax collection body received information about Pakistanis investing in the UAE in a bid to conceal illegal wealth
  • Experts say the move could act as a deterrent against tax-evasion and movement of illegal assets

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to develop better mechanisms to share tax information about Pakistanis investing in the UAE, the chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Shabbar Zaidi said on Saturday, confirming that the tax collecting body had received information about Pakistani citizens who have invested in properties in the Emirates in a bid to conceal illegal wealth.
Under the common reporting system (CRS), which allows for the automatic exchange of banking information between the tax authorities of countries, Pakistan received the data from the Dubai Land Department (DLD) after a three-day meeting between the UAE finance ministry and FBR representatives in Dubai that concluded on October 10.
Zaidi said that the UAE authorities had agreed to cooperate in the sharing of information about Pakistani-owned properties, adding that the two countries would work to revise a 1993 UAE-Pakistan double tax treaty aimed at eliminating fiscal evasion as well as double taxation and additional and indirect taxes.
“The main purpose of our meeting was to develop a uniform and internationally acceptable system of information exchange between UAE and Pakistan... which was not there,” Zaidi said at a joint-presser alongside adviser to the prime minister on finance, Dr. Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, in Islamabad. “This cooperation will provide valuable information to the tax machinery.
UAE authorities could not be immediately reached for comment for this article.
Zaidi said Pakistan also brought up the abuse of a residency permit, called the iqama, which allowed expats to live and work in the UAE. Under UAE law, foreign nationals obtain an iqama on the basis of investment beyond a certain level.
Pakistani tax authorities believe Pakistanis have obtained UAE iqama permits through a Residence by Investment (RBI) initiative in order to park tax-evaded and ill-gotten money in the Emirates.
“We believe that iqama is a visit visa and should not be used as a tax residency substitute,” Zaidi told reporters. “Because when we go for tax information of Iqama holders under the CRS, they [UAE authorities] used to refuse us. After our negotiations, UAE has agreed to correct that position.”
“Now we will have another meeting next month in Islamabad,” Zaidi said.
Islamabad-based economist, Zia Banday, said the UAE’s cooperation with Pakistan on the ease of data exchange would boost its image as a ‘clean’ country.
“It will present us as a clean country... that does not allow dirty money to enter its territory,” Banday said, adding that the move would deter people in Pakistan from evading taxes and moving illegal money to the UAE.
“Pakistan may not get immediate gain by getting its money back tomorrow, but the fear it creates will act as a deterrent for people to follow rule of law,” he said, adding that he hoped the government would expand similar cooperation mechanisms with other countries known to be tax havens around the world.

Pakistan’s polio teams now fight along new frontier: COVID-19

Updated 13 min 56 sec ago

Pakistan’s polio teams now fight along new frontier: COVID-19

  • In absence of protective equipment, health care workers in northwestern province fear for safety
  • This year, 49 cases of poliovirus detected in Pakistan but large scale immunization facilities have been diverted

Kaleemullah Khan, a health care worker in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar, has spent the last week in fear. Every morning, he checks his temperature for fever and then monitors himself for signs of the flu.

The 37-year-old’s paranoia is not unfounded. A day before Eid holidays, Khan had to check up on a man in his area who had tested positive for the deadly coronavirus. 
“He had all the symptoms of the virus,” the health care worker told Arab News. “Symptoms can take up to 14 days to appear in an infected person. So I am very scared. Seven more days till I am safe.”

Kaleemullah Khan, a healthcare worker in  Pakistan’s northern city of Peshawar, marks shops and mosques in his area to ensure people follow social distancing rules on May 30, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Kaleemullah Khan)

For Khan, being on the front lines of fighting a major health care emergency is nothing new. For eight years, he has been working for the government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province to eradicate the wild poliovirus.

But this new disease it different. It is more intimidating.

“For polio, we would go to people’s homes to talk to them, give drops, organize seminars in small rooms,” Khan said. “We did all this without fear because we knew we would not get the virus.”
“Now you just don’t know.”

Kaleemullah Khan, a healthcare worker in  Pakistan’s northern city of Peshawar, marks shops and mosques in his area to ensure people follow social distancing rules on May 30, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Kaleemullah Khan)

Khan lives with his wife, two small daughters and his old parents. He says he is always worried about bringing the virus home.

Till March 22, the father of two was preforming his routine duties of administering anti-polio drops to young children. Then suddenly the polio program was put on hold and Khan and other health care workers were reassigned to fight a new virus– COVID-19.

Since polio is still endemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the only two countries in the world where the disease has not been eliminated, the national polio program had footprints in even smaller administrative units of the country. That is why state officials turned to the polio staff to help track down coronavirus carriers.

Khan’s job now entails tracing people who have arrived in the province from other countries, checking them for symptoms, spreading awareness about safety protocols and reporting on those who violate the government’s lockdown rules. 

Kaleemullah Khan, a healthcare worker in  Pakistan’s northern city of Peshawar, marks shops and mosques in his area to ensure people follow social distancing rules on May 30, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Kaleemullah Khan)

He completes his daily 12-hour shift with only a face mask, gloves and a hand sanitizer to protect him.

“People in our culture, they always want to hug or shake hands to greet you,” he says, “It difficult to maintain a distance here.”

In March, the government prepared national guidelines on COVID-19 and PPEs (personal protection equipment) for the rational utilization of hazmat suits.

Those conducting “in-person interviews” of suspected or confirmed patients and their contacts, the document outlines, will be given an N95 mask, a gown, gloves and eye protection.

But KP’s polio staff members are making do with much less.
Muzdalifa Ilyas, a polio staff member in Peshawar, only covers herself with an abaya, wears a pair of gloves and a face mask while moving through neighborhoods. “That is what our getup looks like,” she told Arab News.
 “We don’t have PPE gowns. But we do have sanitizers which we use regularly.”

Muzdalifa Ilyas, a polio staff member in Peshawar, now works to fight coronavirus in the region on May 30, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Muzdalifa Ilyas)

For Ilyas and her colleagues, the bulk of their work includes reporting violators to the district administration in the province- shopkeepers, business owners and mosque staff who are not following the government’s standard operating procedures (SOPS) which were put in place in May when the Prime Minister allowed more business and industrial sectors to open. 

Rizwana Dar Khan Wazir, the assistant commissioner in Peshawar, has so far fined 400-500 violators and collected Rs 800,000 in fines. 
“We fine 30-40 people daily,” she told Arab News over the phone. 

Although health care workers like Ilyas and Khan are now deployed full time to combat the coronavirus, they are still required to track and report cases of polio virus in the country. “We are doing both things simultaneously,” Khan said. “If there is a new case of paralysis in a child we have to report it.”

This year, 49 cases of wild poliovirus type 1 have been recorded in Pakistan, according to Dr. Rana Muhammad Safdar, the National Coordinator for Polio Eradication in Pakistan.

Safdar told Arab News that since the “country’s fragile health system was seriously challenged” with the outbreak of the coronavirus, the polio program had to be put on hold and all its facilities diverted.

Now, the field staff, he explained, helps in tracing potential high risk international travelers and their contacts, while the religious clerics they had on board for their polio program are promoting social distancing in mosques.

Separately, Safdar and his team are also compiling data of the coronavirus for the ministry of health and using social media to bust myths about the disease.

In a recent meeting of the national polio management team, he revealed, it was decided to resume supplementary immunization campaigns for polio in July till routine and mass campaigns can be restarted. The supplementary campaign will administer the oral polio vaccine in areas where cases have been detected recently, while also following government-mandated safety protocols for the coronavirus.

By the end of the year, three nationwide polio campaigns will be launched back-to-back to make up for missed time. 

“Personally, I feel sad that our efforts of pushing polio virus back had to be halted just as we were gaining momentum,” Dr. Safdar said. “But I am glad that our program was able to build a robust surveillance system for COVID-19 which is helping in the quick detection, isolation and contact tracing of patients in every corner of Pakistan.”

With additional reporting by Benazir Shah