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 accuses India of using cyberspace as weapon, says cyber policy coming soon 

Updated 16 November 2019

Pakistan accuses India of using cyberspace as weapon, says cyber policy coming soon 

  • European disinformation watchdog uncovered 265 Indian websites spreading anti-Pakistan content
  • Pakistan is one of the world’s least cyber-safe countries

ISLAMABAD: Fawad Chaudhry, Pakistan’s Minister for Science and Technology, said on Saturday that India has launched a cyber war against Pakistan, days after a Europe-based watchdog cracked open a nexus of hundreds of dormant companies and 'fake media outlets' saying that it is promoting India’s diplomatic interests around the world, and kickstarting a conversation about cyber security in Pakistan.
EU DisinfoLab, a nonprofit organization that researches and tackles disinformation campaigns, said on Wednesday that it has uncovered 265 fake media outlets spread across 65 countries managed by an Indian network, with content “designed to influence the European Union and the United Nations by repeatedly criticizing Pakistan,” the organization said in a report.
“It’s a cyber war and they [Indians] are using cyberspace as a weapon,” Chaudhry told Arab News.
“Cyber security has become a major global issue,” he continued, and added Pakistan’s cyber security policy would be announced soon.
Investigating the network, the Lab traced digital prints linked to a group of Indian companies, NGOs, and think tanks, from a little-known company called the Srivastava Group.
Dubious news portals all based at the same New Delhi address and mentioned in the watchdog’s investigation included Times of Los Angeles, Times of Portugal, New Delhi Times, New York Journal American, Times of North Korea and The International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies (IINS), which is the same organization that reportedly invited 27 members of the European Parliament to meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visit Kashmir, amid international attention on curbs on free speech and allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir.
On Aug. 5, New Delhi flooded Kashmir valley with troops, enforced a curfew and communications blackout, and scrapped the special legal status of the disputed region which both India and Pakistan own in part but claim in full. Since then, New Delhi has denied its part in any human rights abuses on different media outlets- many of which have turned out to be zombie websites.
Foreign Affairs expert Qamar Cheema said India wanted Pakistan to become globally isolated.
“It is India’s declared position to isolate Pakistan diplomatically and economically,” Cheema told Arab News.
“Both countries are vying to influence the domestic and international audience about their strategic and tactical narratives, but India has developed cobwebs in the virtual world. This is because of India’s IT achievements and expanding global reach,” he said.
“Pakistan is using traditional tools of diplomacy. India is using traditional tools, its web armies and data mining techniques to influence public opinions to which Pakistan may not be able to respond, lacking resources and state of the art IT infrastructure,” he continued.
The fake news websites republished contents from Russia Today and Voice of America, but the report said they also found a large number of articles related to minorities in Pakistan.
In Geneva, the investigating group found that timesofgeneva.com – an online ‘newspaper’ self-professed to be ‘approaching 35 years in business’ – published and produced videos covering events and demonstrations that criticized Pakistan’s role in the Kashmir conflict.
“Media and cyber space are increasingly being used as weapons to influence events and to project national interests. India has been doing it for many years, whether it is hacking our command and control centers... or planting stories about Pakistan,” Ambassador Vice Admiral (R) Khan Hasham Bin Saddique, President of Islamabad Policy Research Institute, told Arab News.
“India’s prowess in the IT field has undermined our national security interests,” he said. “It is time that Pakistan invests in human resource and technological competence because media and cyberspace are the components of 21st century warfare.”
In April, Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunications, had announced that a comprehensive cyber security policy would be introduced soon.
Domestically however, the country has placed great importance on countering and policing the spread of content and information through special cyber laws-- but these were specific to cyber-crime not cyber-security, experts say.
“We have been creating cyber crime laws but not a cyber security policy,” Ammar Jafri, former head of the Federal Investigation Agency’s National Response Center for Cyber Crime wing, told Arab News.
Jafri was instrumental in drafting Pakistan’s first cyber security policy in 2012 which is still pending approval.
“We are one of the few countries in the world without a national computer emergency response team, cyber security policy and cyber security strategy,” he said.
“There are plenty of challenges that Pakistan faces in cyberspace that need government initiatives to confront. We do not need to reinvent the wheel. The cyber security bill can be reactivated with certain amendments.”
“This is the cyber era and we need to spend on cyber weapons to counter enemies of the state on the internet,” he continued.
Pakistan is one of the least cyber-safe countries in the world according to a 2019 Comparitech study sourced from Kaspersky Lab, International Telecommunication Union, and Center for Strategic and International Studies.