Despite the International Monetary Fund (IMF) indicating that it would look unfavorably upon an extension of the amnesty scheme offered by Prime Minister, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) led government on Sunday extended the deadline for its Asset Declaration Scheme for three days to July 3rd. A bold move given the country’s dependence on the international body.

However, as can be seen by the miniscule time extension, this is not really an extension as was originally envisioned; this is a compromise, quite cognizant of the IMF’s stipulation. This three day grace period is merely procedural, the economic team made sure to clarify. In the words of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) chairman Shabbar Zaidi, “technically we are not giving an extension, but helping those already in the queues to complete the process.” If by coincidence more people are able to take advantage of the scheme, that is an added benefit.

That it certainly is; the FBR chairman said about 85,000 people had filed their returns so far and that the numbers were changing every hour and could cross 100,000 – which by his metric make this scheme a success. There are conflicting reports which suggest that the scheme did not manage to generate any substantial revenue, but we have to wait for the process to wrap up and the final numbers to come in before that judgment can be made.

Regardless, one this is certain; the time for pardon and amnesty is soon to be over. These schemes work as a quintessential carrot and stick policy; the whitening of undeclared assets the carrot, and the punitive action on non-filers the stick. However, for too long the government has only dangled the carrot without wielding the stick.

The non-filers must be prosecuted without bias or quarter to truly deter the prevalent practice of dodging taxes. Otherwise this whole exercise will be a farce, a legal scheme to whiten black money.