­MIRPUR (AJK)-Additional Chief Secretary of AJK Farhat Ali Mir has said that as a result of the 13th Amendment to Act 1974, the interim constitution of AJK has been empowered.
Addressing a press conference, he said now all the administrative and financial powers of the Azad Jammu Kashmir Council had been withdrawn and transferred to the government.
Mir, who has recently been appointed as focal person to deal with the issues related to 13th amendment, said that as per the law the AJK government is now fully authorised to collect all kinds of taxes from the region. He said that besides tourism and hydropower generation, all powers have been entrusted to the government. Mir said that since 2008 efforts were underway to seek necessary amendment to the Act. "Under the Act 74 government was bound to seek permission from federal government with regard to the amendments in section 31, 33 and 56 respectively," he said. He added that formal approval in this regard was granted by the government of Pakistan on 31 May 2018.
Later, he said, a joint sitting of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly and the AJK Council approved amendments to the AJK Constitution. Mir said that according to 13th amendment the Act 74 has been converted into AJK constitution. He said that a chapter has also been inducted in the constitution of Pakistan in which some guiding principles have been laid down.
He pointed out that amongst the fundamental rights six additional rights have been inducted and moreover fundamental rights guaranteed to the citizens and enshrined in the constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan have also been included in the constitution of Azad Kashmir. Regarding the Constitutional limits on the size of the cabinet he said that the law would be applicable once the new government takes charge.
"As per the law cabinet size will be equivalent to 30pc of the total strength of the Assembly, whereas number of parliamentary secretaries will be 5," he said adding that Prime Minister is allowed to appoint maximum of two advisors and two special assistants. He said that according to rules 25pc of legislators can bring no-confidence motion against the prime minister. He said that under section 19, AJK Council was given the authority to collect income tax. He said that the government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir can allow the federal institutions like, Education Commission, NADRA, Pakistan Medical and Dental Council, PTA, and OGRA to perform their duties but only after a proper legislation.
"Now, all the federal institutions are constitutionally bound to work under the government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir," he said. He added that the AJK government was now the executive authority instead of Kashmir Council. "Although AJK is not a province of Pakistan but it is the moral responsibility of government of Pakistan to take all possible measures to ensure progress and prosperity in the region," he added.
Farhat Mir said that in 1970 AJK got the first constitution according to which government of Pakistan had rights on defence, currency and foreign affairs. "Rest of all powers were entrusted to the government of AJK," he said. "Under act 1974 parliamentary democracy was introduced in Azad Kashmir. Afterwards AJK Assembly and Kashmir Council was unanimously established."
He said that according to new arrangement AJK Council was given legislative and executive authority over 52 subjects. Moreover, he said that all financial powers were entrusted to the Council. "Resultantly, every elected government of the region had to face financial crises from time to time during their term in office, Mir said.
He said that was the reason that every government and party has been calling for abolishment of the Council or shifting of administrative and financial powers to AJK government. He observed that besides the AJK government the Council is answerable to none. Under article 31/5, the authority to impose income tax, sales and other taxes in the region solely lies with AJK legislative assembly.
He said that under this landmark amendment four seats have been increased in the 49-member house owing to growing population size in the region. He said that 12 seats allocated for the migrants of Jammu and Valley have formally been included in the AJK constitution to lend them legal protection. The initiative, he said, will send a positive signal on other side of the divide (Line of Control).
About the appointment of chief election commission he said that PM is bound to have consultations with opposition leader before taking final decision in this regard. On the similar pattern Mir said that PM will have to take on board the opposition while appointing chairman of Public Service Commission.
Regarding the status of Kashmir Council, he said the Council's status has been reduced just to an advisory body. He however stated that if the appointment of 290 employs of the Council has been made according to the law, there future is safe and they are the liability of the government of AJK. But the problem, he said, was that non-Kashmiri employs were not ready to go to Azad Kashmir, they want to get transferred into the federal departments and that is why ambiguity is created unnecessarily.
After 13th amendment, the commissioner income tax will be treated as the employee of the AJK government. About the letter written to FBR by the office of Tax commissioner he said there has been no reply regarding the letter as it was a futile exercise. He maintained that the issue has come to an end after 22 June 2018.
"In AJK Banks are the biggest corporate sector, which are registered under companies act, now the government can collect taxes from the banks. In case the federal government authorities collect the taxes they will have to give us due share," additional chief secretary AJK said.
About the quota for AJK citizens in federal departments Mir said that two percent quota has been allocated for the citizens of Azad Kashmir. Replying to a query he said that Municipal taxes being imposed in Muzaffarabad, Bagh and other areas of the region has no link with 13th amendment.