Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Egypt's presidency announces that vote on the controversial constitutional referendum is to take place over two days.Egypt's presidency has announced that the referendum on the a draft constitution will be held over two days. The announcement, made on Wednesday, stated that the vote will be held on December 15 and 22. It came just hours after the National Salvation Front (NSF) alliance of opposition parties called for citizens to vote "no" on referendum, and has set conditions that, if unmet, would result in a boycott of the poll. The NSF demanded a full judicial supervision of the process, and that international and local NGOs be allowed to monitor the poll. It also called for voting to take place on a single day. Al Jazeera's Mike Hanna, reporting from Cairo, said that the decision to spread the vote out over two days could bring the opposition "back to square one", although the NTS confirmed late on Wednesday that it would not boycott the vote. However, despite the opposition's uncertain path, Hanna said that a constitutional victory for Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood is far from certain. "One must look at the figures. If you see that President Morsi, who is a supporter of that constitution - as are his followers - he became president with some 51 per cent of the vote. So clearly, there's not an overwhelming support for President Morsi himself, and by extenuation, the Freedom and Justice Party, and, indeed, the Muslim Brotherhood, of which the Freedom and Justice Party is the political arm," said Hanna. "So there can be no speculation as to which way this particular vote is going to go." Meanwhile, the key opposition politicians said on Wednesday that they were prepared to take part in national unity talks with the army. Amr Moussa, Mohamed ElBaradei, leftist Hamdeen Sabahy and a Wafd party leader Mounir Fakhry Abdel-Nour said they would attend unity talks hosted by the army, but the army said on Wednesday it had indefinitely postponed the dialogue due to a low level of response for attendance.The draft constitution, approved by the constituent assembly last month, has become the focus of Egypt's worst political crisis since President Mohamed Morsi's election in June. Rival mass rallies held by both supporters and opponents of President Morsi have become almost a daily occurrence in Cairo, and clashes between the two groups killed at least seven people and injured hundreds more last week. The crisis has necessitated a ramping up of security around the presidential palace, which has been the focal point of anti-Morsi protests. Egyptians abroad, meanwhile, have already begun voting in the referendum on the new constitution, state media reported on Wednesday. Voting was taking place at Egyptian embassies abroad, with more than 500,000 Egyptians expected to cast their votes in 150 countries. Wednesday's developments come after rival rallies were held again on Tuesday, with anti-Morsi protesters outside the presidential palace calling for a boycott of the referendum. Pro-government supporters also held a demonstration, expressing their support for Morsi's decision to hold the referendum.
Egypt’s deep political crisis is not only playing out in street protests, it is pushing its way into all social settings -- including the high-decibel clubland of Cairo’s privileged youth.AL ARABIYA NEWS
Two thirds of Pakistan's MPs dodged income taxes last year according to a study of rampant tax evasion among the country's political elite.
Majority of ministers have not paid into national coffers beyond contribution taken from state salaries, alleges tax reportNearly 70% of Pakistan's politicians, including some of the country's wealthiest people, did not file tax returns last year, according to a report that shines a light on a longstanding problem that reaches to the top of society. According to an investigation published on Wednesday, the vast majority of MPs, cabinet ministers and Pakistan's famously affluent president, Asif Ali Zardari, have not paid tax owed to the desperately cash-strapped government. The report, by the Centre for Investigative Reporting and the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives, comes at time of deepening economic crisis in a country that collects just 9% of its national wealth in tax – almost matching Afghanistan as one of the lowest rates in the world. Tax dodging is rife among Pakistan's 180 million population; just 2% are registered within the tax system but fewer actually pay it. Critics say the rich and powerful are some of the worst offenders and are effectively subsidised by the poor. "Those who make revenue policies, run the government and collect taxes have not been able to set good examples for others," says the Representation Without Taxation report. It found 69% of national assembly members and 63% of senate members did not file tax returns in 2011. Although they are automatically taxed on their basic state salary, by failing to declare any additional wealth they would have been able to evade paying tax. According to a 2009 study, the average wealth of a member of the national assembly was well over £500,000. Under Pakistani law, tax must be paid on income in excess of £3,200. With little revenue to support the national budget, the government has been forced to borrow huge amounts from its banks. Many analysts fear Pakistan's threadbare public finances are unsustainable and yet another bailout by foreign donors could be imminent. The latest research, led by journalist Umar Cheema, is based on the personal tax numbers politicians must include on their nomination papers when standing for election. The figures were used to track down tax filings, most of which were unofficially divulged by staff within the federal board of revenue. Just two politicians voluntarily replied to researchers asking for their tax details, the report says. According to the report, 73 members of the national assembly did not even have a personal tax number at the time of the last election in 2008. In the current cabinet of 55 ministers, only 21 filed tax returns, the report alleged, and those who were taxed paid very little, with only 9% of national assembly members paying more than $6,400 (£4,000). Mushahid Hussain Sayed, a member of the senate, paid just 82 rupees – about 50p. In an email to Reuters, Sayed disputed the report, saying he had paid $6. "I was not a senator then; my source of support was from my family's agricultural income and lecture honoraria," he said. Zardari did not file a tax return in 2011, according to the database of Pakistan's tax collectors, although the report said his spokesman insisted he had. Many parliamentarians are feudal landlords who own vast estates giving them huge incomes and armies of workers who vote for them. However, income from agricultural production is tax exempt. The government plans to launch an amnesty allowing tax evaders to register their untaxed wealth by paying a flat penalty of up to £380. Although it will cost the state millions of pounds in lost revenue, officials think it will reel more people into the tax net. Pakistan has long struggled with tax evasion by the rich and powerful. In a 1986 speech, Zia-ul-Haq, the former military dictator, said if Islamic law called for the amputation of the hands of thieves, tax evaders should have their entire arm cut off. But, as the report notes, Zia failed to file a tax return between 1960 and 1988.
Over 2.38 million people in Pakistan belonging to the wealthy class are tax evaders, revealed statistics compiled by the National Database and Registration Authority. Nearly three million people possess a National Tax Number (NTN), but only 1.4 million of them filed income tax returns last year. Sources identified 2.38 million people who live in palatial houses, own luxury cars, travel abroad frequently, possess arms, hold multiple bank accounts and pay hefty utility bills, but pay no income tax, reports The Dawn. The statistics also revealed that tax officials don't bother to bring these rich people into the tax net, ignoring the fact that one cannot buy a new car without producing their NTN. Although some potential tax evaders have been identified, tax officials posted in 19 regional tax offices across the country did not bother to pursue them, the report said. According to statistics quoted in the report, there are 1.611 million people who frequently embark on international tours but do not pay a single penny as income tax. About 584,730 Pakistanis have multiple accounts in domestic and multinational banks, but do not possess NTNs. There are 66,736 individual consumers who pay large utility bills, over 56,000 people live in posh areas and more than 20,000 people own luxury cars, but pay no income tax. There are also 25,130 people who are engaged in lucrative professions like medicine, engineering, law and chartered accountancy, but they do not pay a single penny as income tax, the paper reported. It is a fact that prices of a plot of land are in millions of rupees in posh areas of Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar, but income tax officers don't bother to trace the buyers of these plots and make them pay income tax, the report said.
According to a report, Pakistan’s two-third lawmakers don’t pay tax.
The first-ever report on the taxes of Pakistan parliament members was released on Wednesday, which shows that more than two thirds of country’s lawmakers paid no tax last year. According to the report, of the 104 Senators, only 49 paid income tax in 2011. They included 11 newly elected senators, who did not file tax returns, though they mentioned otherwise in their nomination papers.