Eight-year-old interview comes back to bite new FBR chief

Shabbar Zaidi has been officially confirmed as the new chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) on an “honorary and pro bono basis for a period of two years with immediate effect”.

Well acquainted with the tax policy and administration affairs in Pakistan, Zaidi has been vocal about his opinions on all that is wrong with the tax administration and practices in Pakistan. In December 2011, speaking at a talk show, Zaidi drew the example of Singapore’s then tax authority chief saying, “The chief of Singapore’s tax authority is one of the highest paid officials and his remuneration is higher than any other multi-national official working in that country. Here [in Pakistan] anyone takes the post of FBR chairman either for power, with ill-intentions, or to serve someone’s interests – because there is no money.”

Interestingly enough, the appointment of Zaidi as FBR Chairman in 2019 came on a pro bono basis meaning that he will not be paid even the salaries paid to previous chairmen.

Another interesting point to note from the same interview was his statement that bringing an outsider [out of the federal board of revenue] to govern from the top is not the solution to the tax predicaments of the country.

“Mian Nawaz Sharif brought Moeen Khan and appointed him at a salary of Rs 10 Lacs. What he did not understand was that the other 22,000 bureaucrats working at the same rank did not stand behind him nor accepted his authority,” Zaidi said in that interview.

“What people don’t understand is that in bureaucracy, bringing an official to sit at the top doesn’t solve any problems,” was the statement back then of the current FBR Chief. It appears that the memories of that interview are still quite fresh in the minds of people, as there has been an upheaval on social media about this new appointment.

Only Shabbar Zaidi can tell what changed his mind over the past eight years, but as per the widely documented record of his speeches, it seems that his appointment at a pro bono basis and the appointment of an ‘outsider’ altogether is not something he believed to work in any way to solve Pakistan’s tax problems.



  1. SZ has the tendency of saying without thinking. Coming on TV and making statements does not make him an automatic choice for FBR chief position.

    Let us see what he does to increase the tax payers base who are not paying proper taxes like doctors/beauty parlour/restaurants operating on cash basis only

  2. In present scenario is it possible to grape the strong entity in Pakistan have no answer, thus let’s see for any “Moajza” by the almighty God because we don’t want to walk on rightous path.

  3. It is pre-mature to comment at this stage about SZ’s plan/strategy to increase/ enhance tax collection in the times to come. I would therefore suggest to wait a week or ten days and then form some opinion after listening to him. However, I am of the view that he might give some non traditional or out of the box solution to the challenging task assigned to him, being an outsider and looking things from the payers point of view.

  4. Come on guys. If Zaidi takes a salary he’s being greedy. If he doesn’t, he’s a lame duck as nobody will take him seriously. It’s a case of the devil you do- the devil you don’t! But the $60 million dollar question is not if Zaidi will work for free or for a fee. The most important question is: How much authority will Zaidi have to take the FBR/MOF/bull by the horns and how much bullshit he’ll have to take from the guy(s) he’ll be reporting to once Zaidi steps on the toes of the meddling political and bureaucratic elite who do not have any stomach for meaningful tax reforms.

  5. He is a genius, has 30 years of work experience on his back, and in the current scenario there is no better option than S.Zaidi. I am hopeful that the sort of decisions he is taking will obviously lift Pakistan to new heights.

  6. If one is carrying thirty years of experience to manipulate tax system and advice his clients how to pay no or less taxes,
    He can not manage the clear and clean side effectively.
    He may demonstrate a very short term business community support based on yester years relations.
    No relation is permanent in money matters and soon he will realize and opt out.
    It’s managing country economy and not running a corporate accounting firm!

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