ISLAMABAD: At least two union council chairmen are allegedly collecting illegal tax from the public on vehicles, despite clear directives of the Islamabad mayor against the practice, Pakistan Today has learnt.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-backed Sohan UC 21 Chairman Malik Amir Ali is allegedly collecting illegal tax of Rs80 from tractor trollies, Rs50 from trucks, Rs30 from Shahzore and Suzuki pick-ups and Rs10 from taxis, for entry and exit into the Sohan area.
Syed Akhtar Bukhari, a resident of Sawan UC, said that he had been paying these ‘taxes’ for the last 14 years but not a single penny was ever used for any development project in the UC.
“We approached NA-49 MNA Tariq Fazal Chaudhry and requested him to develop concrete roads or revamp the dilapidated ones in the area, as he received 80 per cent of UC votes in 2013, but he outrightly refused to entertain their complaints, saying that all of the votes he got from the area were bought by him in reality and weren’t voluntarily given.”
According to reports, the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) has failed so far to acquire the development budget from the federal government.
Suleman Durrani, another resident, said that they would be fine with the tax collection if the tax was utilised to develop UC streets, improve sanitation and revamp roads, however, unfortunately, it is not the case. He claimed that all the collected tax was used for giving staff salaries and running the day to day personnel affairs of the UC chairman.
It is pertinent to mention here that previously some UC chairmen, including UC43 Chairman Rana Muhammad Ashfaq, started issuing birth and death certificates, marriage registration certificates, and divorce deeds in order to generate funds.
Earlier, the Saidpur UC chairman had awarded an illegal contract worth Rs12.7 million for a cattle market and the Malpur UC chairman had started collecting toll tax on Shahdara Road, to generate funds since the CDA Mayor cum Chairman Sheikh Anser Aziz failed to acquire development budget from the federal government despite his close relationship with ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
Subsequently, in order to end this practice, Chief Metropolitan Officer (CMO) Asad Mehboob Kayani wrote to both the UC chairmen and barred them from collecting any further illegal taxes on July 11.
In the notification, he directed the Saidpur UC chairman to withdraw the contract for the cattle market as such contracts could only be awarded by the MCIs.
“It is to inform that under the fourth schedule, part II of the ICT Local Government Act 2015, these tax collections come under the jurisdiction of MCI. Hence, the above-referred work orders issued to contractors is unlawful. Therefore, you are advised to immediately stop the cattle/bakra mandi, toll tax collection and withdraw the work orders issued to contractors,” it was said in the CMO’s letter to the UC1 chairman.
Another letter addressed to the Malpur UC No 3 chairman said: “It has come to our notice that two UC chairmen [have] awarded contracts of tax collection, besides, awarding contract of cattle mandi— which is an illegal step and a violation of the local government act, so today we have written letters to both the chairmen to immediately stop this illegal activity”.
However, a UC chairman of PML-N, while requesting anonymity, has criticised Sheikh Anser’s policies for giving more attention and time to CDA affairs than MCI.
“We [UC chairmen] are not being given enough funds to generate even the staff salaries [as approved]; how are we supposed to run our daily affairs?” he questioned.
MCI opposition leader Ali Awan said that the rules of business of MCI had not been defined even after the passage of two whole years. He further said that there was no budget allocation, and UC chairmen were running their UCs on their own.
When contacted, PTI’s UC Chairman Malik Amir said that they had tendered two Chungis to private parties— Pandorian chungi for Rs1.8 million rupees per annum and Sohan chungi for Rs1.2 m per annum.
“As MCI regulations have not been approved by the interior ministry as of yet, the old rules are to be implemented on the decades-old 11 UCs of capital. And as Sohan UC is amongst the said 11, it cannot be said that the taxes are being collected illegally,” he claimed.
However, he admitted that the collected tax was being utilised to pay staff salaries, office bills, stationary expenditures and patrolling.
He also said that the staff salary was around Rs0.15 million per month.