ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Monday constituted a 13-member committee to prepare proposals for tracing and retrieving such assets held abroad by Pakistani citizens as have not been declared or were made without paying taxes in the homeland.

The committee, headed by State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Tariq Bajwa, shall also submit suggestions to curb the menace of money laundering and transfer of money through Hawala and Hundi.

Other members of the committee include Finance Secretary Arif Ahmed Khan, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Chairman Tariq Pasha, Senior Advocate Khalid Anwer, Advocate and Partner of “Huzaima and Ikram” Ikramul Haq, Senior Partner AF Ferguson and Co Syed Shabbar Zaidi, Barrister Mehmood Mandviwalla, Additional Attorney-General Muhammad Waqar Rana, business leaders Bashir Ali Muhammad and Tariq Paracha, Senior Banker Atif Bajwa, former FBR chairman Nisar Muhammad Khan and any other member co-opted by the committee.

A three-member bench of the top court headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar resumed hearing in the suo motu notice regarding undeclared foreign assets of Pakistanis, and approved the Terms of References (ToRs) compiled by the members of committee.

The bench was informed that a suitable mechanism for offering incentives to Pakistani citizens to voluntarily declare their foreign assets and bring their money or moveable assets back to Pakistan had been suggested.

Waqar Rana informed the bench that ToRs were proposed to prepare the guidelines and evolve effective strategy to encourage the people to take out their money from foreign banks and bring it back to their home country.

The law officer read out the TORs that suggested various measures for the matter in hand.

The ToRs suggested a suitable mechanism to incentivise Pakistani citizens to voluntarily declare assets held abroad and bring them back to the country, or pay suitable amount of tax in case they wanted to keep the assets abroad.

It proposed to conduct diagnostic analysis and lay out the current landscape related to outflow of foreign exchange from Pakistan resulting in accumulation of assets abroad by Pakistani citizens, besides examining existing legal regime and practice [especially related to foreign exchange and taxation], bilateral treaties and multilateral conventions that can be used to stem the unregulated outflow of foreign exchange from Pakistan and trace undeclared assets held abroad by Pakistani citizens and retrieve such assets especially the ones generated with proceeds of crime.

It was further proposed to study the steps taken by other countries to trace and retrieve assets of their citizens in foreign countries. The committee further suggested administrative actions and measures that could be taken to achieve the objectives outlined under the existing legislative regime.

The ToRs also include identification of gaps and limitations in the existing legislative framework and suggest suitable amendments for establishment of a robust regime that is transparent, unambiguous and does not create undue hardships for law abiding citizens, is adequate and effective to enable relevant government agencies and departments to stem the unregulated outflow of foreign exchange from Pakistan in future and trace the undeclared assets held abroad by Pakistani citizens. The court was informed that in pursuance of the court’s order a meeting to discuss the terms of references and constitution of the committee was held on March 21 in State Bank of Pakistan, Islamabad.

The court was informed that after deliberations, it was agreed to propose the ToRs and composition of the committee.

It was informed that senior advocate at Supreme Court Khalid Anwar has also given his consent to the proposed ToRs and composition of the committee.

The top court directed the committee to submit its final report within three weeks and adjourned further hearing.

Former Information Minister Muhammad Ali Durrani, who had also filed petition for impleadment, appeared before the court and agreed with the ToRs and the constitution of the committee.

On a previous hearing on March 20, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar had observed that a lot of Pakistanis had kept their money in Dubai, Malaysia and various other countries.

He also expressed his concern that the court did not want to create a situation that would affect Pakistan's economy negatively.

 

 

Syed Sabeehul Hussnain