The Directorate of Customs Intelligence and Investigation have “discovered” the evasion of duties and taxes to the tune of Rs.775 million. Discovered? Stumbled upon? Unearthed? Were they hibernating? Is this evasion possible without the convenience of custom authorities? And to imagine how much of the evasion of import duties and taxes are not detected by the Directorate of Customs Intelligence and Investigation. Importers of fabric and yarn were illegally availing the concession of sales tax by misusing the SRO1125. The SRO1125 gives concessions to importers who also have manufacturing facilities. Imported consignments were cleared from different ports of Model Customs Collectorate Appraisement (East), Appraisement (West) and Port Qasim. The Inland Revenue Wing of FBR has also put its two cents in, saying that there was a colossal loss of revenue to the national exchequer.

While these importers now have cases open against them, this is symptomatic of our national crisis of conscience. Those who have to pay taxes evade them; those who have to take taxes would rather take bribes home. This is the story of most bureaucratic offices. The FBR appeared unperturbed where the tax evasion of parliamentarians was concerned last May, when they submitted nomination papers that declared incomes and assets. The information was and is in their hands, to investigate and apprehend those with discrepancies. But politics trumps everything in Pakistan, especially law and economy.

And then there is public encouragement, by the likes of Imran Khan and his mob, to skip paying taxes as it helps the government operate. It has become acceptable in our society to evade taxes, and now even heroic. Even Misbah ul-Haq’s accounts have been frozen over tax evasion. The skipper owes Rs 3.9 million in taxes. No wonder he he had been depressed and unable to perform in recent matches! Less than 0.5 per cent of Pakistanis pay income tax. That is just 750,000 individuals out of a population of some 180 million. How do we expect the government to work at all with this type of funding? The country is losing taxes of Rs1,000 billion annually due to evasion across the economy. And the same amounts are then being added to our internal and external debt, to cripple economic policy for years to come.