UAE not obliged to share bank data of Pakistani iqama holders — experts

A policeman walks past the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) office building in Islamabad, August 29, 2018. (REUTERS/File)
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Updated 11 December 2019

UAE not obliged to share bank data of Pakistani iqama holders — experts

  • Pakistan has regretted UAE's non-cooperation over sharing asset details of expats
  • Islamabad struggles to track foreign assets purchased by Pakistanis with allegedly ill-gotten gains

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan government's move to seek access to the actionable bank account information of its taxpayers in the UAE might have hit a snag, international law experts said on Tuesday.

Pakistan believes its nationals are allegedly hiding behind UAE residence permits (iqama) to conceal their wealth and other tax-related information.

On Monday, the government expressed its regrets over non-cooperation from the UAE with regard to the assets obtained by its citizens in the Emirates with ill-gotten money.

However, experts argue that authorities cannot force the UAE to share information on the movable and immovable assets purchased by Pakistani nationals who hold Emirati residence permits.

“It is the sole prerogative of the UAE government to share or refuse (to share) the sought information,” barrister Omer Malik, international law expert, told Arab News. “The UAE government may violate the right to privacy of an iqama holder if it opts to share his assets and tax-related information with Pakistan.”

In a letter to the UAE Ministry of Finance, Pakistan's Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) had accused “delinquent tax residents” of having “siphoned off funds out of Pakistan” and “circumventing” the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) common reporting standard (CRS) regarding financial account information, which includes periodic exchange of taxpayer information.

The FBR asked the UAE Ministry of Finance to provide information on “all those Pakistanis” who had sought the UAE iqama under Residence by Investment (RBI) schemes

Malik suggested that Pakistani tax authorities do their homework before seeking information from the UAE. 

“Our government will never be able to get any actionable information if it continues seeking details of its nationals in bulk,” he said. “Our tax officials should track a certain number of individuals, and then seek information about them.”

Pakistan became a member of the OECD in 2016.

Under the CRS mechanism, Pakistan received information of some 3,620 accounts of its nationals in the UAE in August, but said that “the number of material accounts with a substantial balance is negligible.”

Dubai real estate market data shows that Pakistanis were among the top 10 foreign investors in property in the UAE in 2018. Pakistani authorities suspect that its nationals who hold the UAE iqama have been using it to hide their illegal wealth in the Emirates.

“No country including the UAE will share any actionable information and evidence of money-laundering or tax evasion with Pakistan until bilateral agreements for the purpose are signed,” Habibullah Khan, Supreme Court advocate and expert on international tax laws, told Arab News.

He said that it would be “almost impossible” for the government to prosecute people based on information gathered from other countries. “It is a futile exercise, but our politicians do it to play with the galleries,” he said.

The FBR has requested the UAE “to provide a well-laid-out roadmap” on obtaining the information on iqama holders. However, the UAE “has not responded to all earlier written requests of FBR in this regard,” it said in a statement.

Virus school closure turns aspiring financier into Islamabad’s favorite pet portraitist

Updated 10 min 14 sec ago

Virus school closure turns aspiring financier into Islamabad’s favorite pet portraitist

  • In front of a veterinary clinic in Islamabad’s F7 sector, a 19-year-old artist set up a pet portrait studio
  • Malik began painting at a young age, but animals entered his canvas only last year, when his beloved cat went missing

ISLAMABAD: With a science certificate in his pocket, Arbaz Malik was ready for college when the coronavirus struck and shut the door of his dream school. Putting the 19-year-old’s education on hold, the pandemic has, however, opened to him a strikingly different career path: pet portraiture.

In front of a veterinary clinic at a small market in Islamabad’s F7 sector, Malik set up a tiny pop-up studio which draws attention with a rainbow sign “Paint Your Loving Pet” and furry customers waiting for their turn to be captured in paint.

 A German Shepherd puppy is sitting still while Arbaz Malik is painting its portrait in Maqbool Market in F7 Islamabad on Aug. 5, 2020. (AN/Sib Kaifee)

“I was very excited for school to begin, I am aiming to get a Bachelor of Business Management (BBM) degree,” he said. But as the pandemic made everything become uncertain, the current job as a pet portraitist gives him “a positive thing to look forward to every day.”

Malik’s engagement in the arts began at a young age, but until recently he was trying to master landscape and cityscape painting. Animals entered his canvas only last year, when his beloved cat Shpanty went missing.

Heartbroken, unable to find Shpanty, Malik eventually painted her portrait from a photograph. Seeing the result, his brother, Arsalan, advised him to think about turning talent into a career.

Arbaz Malik's cat Shpanty went missing in 2019. Her portrait, left, was Malik's first step into the pet portraiture business. (Photo courtesy: Arbaz Malik)

“My brother suggested that I come here to the same place we would bring our cat, and see if pet parents going in and out of the clinic might be interested in getting their pets painted,” Malik told Arab News while painting a German Shephard pup patiently sitting next to his easel.

“Three months ago, with the support of the clinic, I began my business.”

Dog, cat, bird, and even horse owners have since become Malik’s faithful and broad customer base. His paintings have already traveled across the world into homes in Canada and France with repeat customers commissioning him to paint pet portraits which they carry abroad as gifts for relatives and friends.

When his college reopens, Malik wants to attend classes full time, but says he will not give up art.

“I will always do both, even after my studies are complete,” he said, “I love painting too much.”

He also loves animals, which is what he and his customers have in common.

“Pets are so important, you love them, they are beautiful and innocent, and they really are your best friend,” Malik said, “They even help you fight off depression, because their support and love are unconditional.”