Growers of tobacco threaten to stage sit-in in Islamabad on April 24

ISLAMABAD: The Anjuman-e-Tahfuzi Hoqiqi Kashtkaran and the Dealer Association Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) have threatened to stage a sit-in in the federal capital on April 24 if the government did not withdraw the tobacco taxes forthwith.

The tobacco business remains the only main source of income of the people of six districts of the KP, but the imposition of the huge taxes have paralyzed business activities, a spokesperson of Anjuman-e-Kashtkaran, Muhammad Iqbal told Pakistan Today.

He said that the government had imposed additional taxes on tobacco crops and reduced the prices of cigarettes due to which the manufacturers faced financial loses, as tobacco companies purchased tobacco from them on very low rates.

He said that the government imposed taxes on local farmers just to please the multi-national companies without taking into consideration the huge losses to local industries.

“The government should stop the injustices meted out to the farmers forthwith, as there were already huge taxes on tobacco,” he added.

Iqbal went on to say that tobacco is the main cash crop of the farmers in Swabi, Mardan, Charsadda, Nowshera, Buner, Swat and Mansehra after a ban on poppy cultivation in these areas.

He said that the business of the farmers in these areas had been devastated during the last one decade due to an on-going war against terrorism, where opium was cultivated but now tobacco is the main business; however the government is hell-bent to destroy the local industry to facilitate Multi National Companies (MNCs).

Iqbal said that the government had imposed federal excise duty Rs10, advance withholding tax Rs8.8, federal government cess Rs3.67 and provincial excise cess Rs5 per kilogram of tobacco.

He said that the government reduced the excise duty on cigarette merely to benefit the multi-national companies in clear violation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control-2014 (FCTC) signed with the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The FCTC was meant to discourage smoking by increasing the price of cigarette and taking other measures, however, contrary to it, the government decreased the prices of cigarettes by violating the agreement.

The local business is badly damaged due to the government anti-farmers policies, leading to the closure of around 19 industries and other related departments, besides rendering jobless a huge number of people.

He demanded that the government should withdraw all the taxes on tobacco and take back the reduction on duties on cigarettes otherwise they will be left with no option but to stage protest demonstrations in the federal capital to press for their demands.

Muhammad Iqbal said the livelihood of 250,000 farmers in KP depends on their tobacco crop. He said the farmers were already overburdened as tobacco crops need a lot of care and fertilizers. He said it is the duty of the government to impose taxes on industries and provide relief to farmers, but the situation is different in KP.

“We appeal to the government to withdraw taxes on us and it should increase the price of cigarettes if it wants to increase its revenue,” he maintained.

He said that cigarettes are consumed by people who can afford it, while tobacco crop is grown by farmers who are in need and their livelihood is linked with it.

He said that government should reward the farmers of the areas badly affected in war on terror instead of depriving them of their livelihood by imposing huge taxes.

According to the Ministry of Health statistics, about 100,000 people die annually in Pakistan due to tobacco use. However, even then the government has encouraged tobacco use by drastically reducing the taxes on tobacco products, instead of increasing the taxes to discourage its consumption, as huge increases in consumption of tobacco has been witnessed due to a reduction of taxes on cigarettes.

 

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Hamid Khan Wazir
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