Islamabad-Tobacco farmers and industrial workers have demanded of the federal government not to impose heavy taxes saying the move would create monopoly of multinational companies and eliminate thousands of jobs from local industry.

In statement issued by the farmers association after a meeting here yesterday said that hundreds of thousands of farmers and at least 20,000 industrial workers would go jobless if the government imposes new taxes on local industry at the behest of multinational companies.

The meeting was attended by representatives of industrial workers and farmers to discuss the issues they were facing with regard to government’s move of imposing new taxes.

“We will not accept any tax other than Rs10 per kg tobacco,” said the statement. Last year, the government had proposed imposition of Rs300 advance tax per kilogram on tobacco which triggered protests and demonstrations by the farmers and industrial workers. Under the proposals, farmers had to sell the crop for Rs130 per kilogram to the tobacco companies but they would have to pay Rs300 tax per kilogram.

After several rounds of meetings with government officials, National Assembly speaker Asad Qasier played a role for withdrawal of the decision. “Multinational companies are making fresh efforts that the government imposes heavy taxes on farmers, annihilate small industrial units and eliminate dealers,” they said.

According to the farmers, there were more than 22 small companies in the province that used to pay better prices to farmers than other major companies and then their purchasing centres were located in villages where they could easily sell their produce.

The province was producing 98 per cent of the tobacco crop in areas including Buner and Mansehra, Shergarh in Mardan and Charsadda and Swabi districts. Swabi is considered to be major producer where tobacco not only a cash crop but the lone source of livelihood for millions of households. They said that we fear that multinational companies wanted to establish their monopoly over the industry which is not in anyone’s interest.

They said that the government should impose taxes, if it wanted, on a pack of cigarette instead of denying farmers and industrial workers livelihood opportunities. The meeting was attended by Mehnat Kash Labour Federation president Abrar Ullah and Kisan Board Pakistan president Rizwanullah.

Others included, Sarhad Agricultural and Rural Development Organisation president Haji Abdul Nabi Mohmand and Anjuman Tahaffuz Kashtkaran president Haji Niamat Shah and Tahaffuz Haqooq Kashtkaran president Liaqat Yousafzai.