Two months ago, the Punjab Revenue Authority (PRA) sent notices to Facebook, Google, Dailymotion and YouTube, asking them to get their online advertisement business registered with the Authority in the Punjab province of Pakistan. After around three weeks, only Facebook responded - and it promptly refused.

It must appear a little ironic that the Punjab government demanded tax from a company based overseas – and that it refused to do so based exactly on that reason. The parallels with the Panama papers controversy and the bind Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) finds itself in are comically easy to see, although it is doubtful that the government will appreciate the humour.

The PRA certainly sees no room for levity; it is adamant on seeking legal redress by sending out notices and prepping the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for punitive measures. However, PRA’s reasons – as well as its ability – for challenging these Internet giants remain questionable.

The PRA is on untenable ground. Websites don’t pay taxes on the revenue generated from online traffic, especially not to a country it is being accessed in. Facebook is registered in Ireland, and it receives any tax generated. This is the exact logic on with offshore accounts and shell companies work – and the Punjab government should be well aware of those. It can try and enforce its demands by creating new rules, but that would go against international business convention. How much leverage does the PRA have over a social media website, that has become almost indispensable in the information age, is also under question.

Secondly, the policy behind demanding tax from only these four websites is shaky. They were picked because they were rich and could pay – the arbitrary logic by which the PRA goes after fine dining restaurants – instead of an across the board definitive principle. If websites are to be taxed, why not tax them all?

The PRA has managed to rope in several institutes into the tax net, but this seems like a fool’s quest.