FeaturedNationalVOLUME 16 ISSUE # 08

Rich representatives of poor Pakistanis

The details of assets and liabilities of the parliamentarians for the financial year 2019-20 show how flaws in tax laws allow rich people to hide their true net worth. The annual statements of parliamentarians and their dependents also indicate that only rich people can take part in politics and win elections that is why they remain disconnected from the common people and fail to understand and address their issues.

The annual declaration of assets and liabilities of the parliamentarians submitted to the Election Commission of Pakistan also point out flaws in our tax laws, which allow rich people and politicians to hide assets or devalue the worth of those they choose to declare. The assets of Prime Minister Imran Khan have declined by 26pc against the previous year. He owned Rs108 million in FY 2018-19 while his assets reduced to Rs80 million in the current fiscal year. Besides owning Rs80 million, he has four foreign accounts with combined deposits of $331,230 and £518. He also has four goats worth Rs200,000. His liability includes over Rs70 million in the form of loan secured against his 80 kanals of land at Ferozewala. He does not have any business in Pakistan or abroad and also does not own any vehicle in his name. The declared cost of his Bani Gala property is zero, since it was a gift from his ex-wife. Similarly, his inherited Zaman Park property in Lahore is valued at zero even though he admitted to spending over Rs400 million on constructions in his filing last year. Declaring the value of the two properties would have made him one of the richest men in the parliament.

The ruling party’s Noor Alam Khan is one of the richest MNAs with assets worth Rs3.20 billion while Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif owns assets worth Rs240 million. He listed houses in Lahore, Murree and London, but also posted significant liabilities, leaving him with a net worth of roughly Rs100 million. According to the declaration, his first wife, Nusrat, is worth about twice as much as him. In contrast, his second wife, Tehmina, is worth just Rs5.76 million. Former President Asif Ali Zardari is worth Rs670 million and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Rs1.58 billion. Former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has assets worth Rs60 million while Raja Pervaiz Ashraf Rs20 million.

National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser owns assets worth over Rs80 million and liabilities of over Rs126 million. PTI Secretary General Amir Mehmood Kayani owns assets worth Rs146.9 million, Riaz Fatyana Rs54.86 million and Ghulam Bharwana Rs3.7 million. Energy Minister Omar Ayub Khan has Rs1.21 billion in assets and Rs20 million in liabilities. Defence Minister Pervez Khattak owns assets worth Rs150 million while he owes his mother-in-law Rs25 million. Federal Minister Faisal Vawda owns assets worth Rs630 million, foreign assets worth Rs510 million, 40-tola gold and a car worth more than Rs10 million. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi owns Rs240 million in assets, Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood Rs150 million, Federal Minister Hamad Azhar and his wife own assets worth over Rs360 million and Rs280 million, respectively, Planning Minister Asad Umar Rs660 million, Communications Minister Murad Saeed over Rs3.1 million and his financial details also include the value of his personal car and 15-tola gold. Federal Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan owns Rs50 million in assets, Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry Rs111.6 million, Federal Minister Tariq Bashir Cheema Rs109.7 million in property, 100-tola gold and a car worth Rs45 million. Federal Minister Khusro Bakhtiar owns Rs270 million in assets while his car has been declared as a gift from his parents. IT Minister Aminul Haque has assets worth more than Rs15 million and Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has assets worth Rs46.5 million. PML-Q MNA Moonis Elahi has Rs1 billion in assets and also owns 1,000 shares in a sugar mill. His wife has assets worth Rs78.6 million. MQM-Pakistan Convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui owns assets worth over Rs10 million, Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) chief Nawabzada Zain Bugti owns 23,000 acres of inherited land at Dera Bugti, 836 acres of agricultural land in Sanghar and a gas station worth Rs10 million.

BNP’s Akhtar Mengal has declared assets worth millions, including farm animals worth Rs3 million. PML-N’s Khawaja Saad Rafique has declared assets worth Rs120 million, loans amounting to Rs29.5 million, two vehicles with a declared cost of Rs57 million and Rs52 million in bank accounts. His wife, Ghazala Saad Rafique, has 40-tola gold. PML-N’s Ayaz Sadiq has assets worth Rs60 million and two plots in Gulberg, Lahore, with declared values of Rs30 million and Rs28 million. Marriyum Aurangzeb declared assets worth more than Rs30 million and 16-tola jewellery worth Rs1.2 million.

The details show the politicians declare their assets with the utmost care. The ritual has failed to make politics fair and hold politicians accountable to the voters, which were its prime objective when launched in the military regime in 2002. Glaring discrepancies exist between declared wealth and luxurious lifestyles of the legislators. It is because of tax laws which allow them enough room to hide assets or undervalue them to avoid taxes. It is strange that Prime Minister Imran Khan is poorer this year compared with the last year because he has chosen to declare the “cost value” of his assets rather than their present market worth. The same is the case with former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and PTI legislator Khayal Zaman Orakzai. They were billionaires a year ago but are no longer that rich because the value of their properties has reduced. In the absence of a mechanism for regular scrutiny of the real value of their assets, liabilities and tax details, the whole exercise is meaningless.