ADVOCATE NAEEM BOKHARI’S 2ND LETTER - TO THE CHAIRMAN CENTRAL BOARD OF REVENUE, ISLAMABAD.
Update: I just read it. Please do read it in its entirety as it is the 2nd brilliant eye opening letter by the Advocate Naeem Bokhari, which might also have some unforeseen happenings attached to it. My comments follow the post.
Mr. Abdullah Yousaf
Central Board of Revenue
I write this letter as an Officer of the Supreme Court of Pakistan; as an Advocate of the apex Court and the High Courts; as an Attorney who has paid more income tax from his earnings than many of my friends and colleagues, and as a patriot who has a stake in the dispensation of economic justice, intimately and vitally interested in the efficient functioning of Central Board of Revenue, Pakistan.
Many Commissioners of Income Tax and Collectors of Customs know me for decades, as a person endowed by nature with a pleasant disposition and acceptance of human failings. As a true patriot and well wisher of the Country, I gave my sincere observations to Mr Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the former Chief Justice of Pakistan which proved beneficial for him as well as the Country and saved both from a bigger disaster. In same manner, I submit myself with these sincere facts towards the Central Board of Revenue as I also want to see it on a high pedestal of dignity, compassion and justice, tempered with mercy.
I have seen Central Board of Revenue headed by Mueen-uddin Khan, Syed Mohsin Asad, Miyan Iqbal Fareed, Syed Riyaz Naqvi and Riyaz Malik and how the CBR functioned under them in the 1980s/1990s.
I was appalled at the manner in which the Central Board of Revenue remained under the reins of mismanagement and corruption. I was horrified by the move of former Chairman CBR, Riyaz Malik, who got extended the serving contract periods of all the CBR Members hired from the private sector, on the pretext of Tax Reforms. This was clearly designed to block your posting as the Chairman CBR by getting extended his own tenure in the name of Tax Reforms. The accelerated issue of the notification transferring and posting you as the Chairman CBR put Riyaz Malik’s move to rest.
I believed that you were vigorous, capable of lifting up the Central Board of Revenue, creating an espirit-de-corps among your officers, restoring the dignity and grandeur of the Central Board of Revenue, particularly considering the long tenure before you.
Alas this has not come about!!!
I am not perturbed by your strategy of single-outing yourself from the department you head through harsh and contemptuous attitude towards the staff and officers (despite my belief that it’s the mutual respect and morale boosting through providing a sense of belonging that would have improved the working of the CBR and raised its image in the eyes of everybody. Over reaction by blaming officers to be corrupt, superseding tens of officers on charges of corruption without any justification or even instancing a single case for the corruption and portraying yourself to be someone alien - on a different planet despite using all the benefits of that planet is just fluff, not the substance of an office).
I am mildly amused at your desire to be present on every TV Channel by sacrificing already set important official meetings and engagements, disregarding the awaiting officers and staff. I am titillated by your being so close to the some selected ‘Business Community’ that a tax consultant, Mr. Shabbar Zaidi, a Chartered Accountant of A.F Fargusons claims that all his budget proposals have been incorporated and passed to make Law, without a single exception, since you took the office as the Chairman, CBR. It’s like asking India to devise a strategy to resolve Kashmir dispute, and then implementing that strategy in letter and spirit without pointing a finger on any point.
I am not perturbed that Mr. Abdul Razzak has been appointed by you as Member Audit who does not even know the ABC of tax management and his only credit is that he is related to you and has the reputation of being someone with “magical hands” as he can get anything approved from you within no time overriding any concept of institutional jurisdiction. His career is said to have remained dependent on you as by using your authority in previous assignments/postings, you have always got him appointed on important positions for the reasons best known to you.
My grievances and protests are different.
I am perturbed that the Central Board of Revenue should issue a clarificatory statement on this behalf. I am perturbed that the Member Admn. should summon, Member HRM to his chambers on this account that how this illegal appointment was made by sacrificing merit and a huge remuneration is being paid whereas the audit is suspended for the last three years. Isn’t it a unnecessary and worthless burden on the national exchequer!!
I am appalled that you are so intolerant to discussion and criticism that you can even sacrifice efficiency and integrity for that. It is an open secret that for this sole reason, the well reputed, honest and efficient grade 21 officer of Customs, Mr. Ramzan Bhatti was first removed from the post of Member Customs and posted as DG Internal Audit. Eventually, he was thrown out from the Revenue Division to the Law and Justice Division as he was not ‘behaving’ up to your ‘expectation level’.
You are well known for your friendly gestures for the business community, but I am disturbed with the extent of these friendly relations which knows no bounds. Your closest business friend, Mr. Raja Zarat, known as Bawan Shah, is presently under prosecution in NAB custody and faces more than eight FIRs. It is an open secret that all important posting and transfers in the department used to be made with the consent of Bawan Shah. Mr. Azhar Majeed Khalid, a close associate of Bawan Shah, knew very well why Mr Afzal Bhaati, another competent and honest officer of Customs was made OSD and he was given the dual charge of CARE and Collector Appraisement Karachi. Now when people blame Mr. Azhar Majeed for giving his official ‘CARE Software Password’ to Bawan Shah, I only feel pity for the officer, as how could he ever say no!!. When Bawan Shah ruled the department through your good self and got his people posted on various places in the department, why those officers would not have given compliance to him. Bawan Shah during his rule, used to give open threats to the officers, of dire consequences and whole department saw it happen in real. Mrs. Rifat Abidi, a grade 20 officer, was first posted as Collector Audit, Sales Tax House, Karachi; who granted DTRE approvals to various companies of Bawan Shah in one day. After performing her this job in Sales Tax, she was moved to Port Qasim as Collector Customs to clear fake exports of Bawan Shah. Similarly, mis-declared imports in the name of DTRE through Appraisement Collectorate became a matter of routine. No officer in the department from Collector to Inspector could dare to open or check the import or export containers of Bwan Shah because of the fear of your good self sir.
I am more perturbed with the fact that instead of feeling some kind of guilt, now you openly blame the department and the officers for their connivance with the Bawan Shah, as if you had nothing to do with it. You have recently dismissed a DC, Mr. Nasir Khan who was posted in the Sales Tax Refund Collectorate Karachi on your directions on the recommendation of Bawan Shah. In case the officer deserved dismissal, what the Chairman should deserve on whose directions the officer was posted in refund and was bound to accept the orders received from Bawan Shah!!
Sir, NAB investigations have been initiated against 11 DCs of Customs and the total toll to be investigated comprises of 82 officers. All these officers are now being accused of helping Bawan Shah in one way or the other, for the reason that you had transferred them on key positions on the recommendation of Bawan Shah. It is more disturbing to know that this NAB investigation has been started on the recommendation of Central Board of Revenue. It seems the plan is to execute the weak in order to save the ‘strong real culprit’. When you are well aware that these officers were helpless and had no option but to comply with the orders of Bawan Shah, thanks to your close alliance with him, then at least you should be under a moral obligation to save these officials who were too weak to fly against the wind. They are not well connected like you. You can hush the NAB inquiry, still pending against you in capacity of Secretary Petroleum (which you remained for 6 long years), but these 82 people are not that lucky. They are not that resourceful to hush the NAB reference. Their families are frightened, their morale is at lowest ebb; all they wonder is what could they do and their dismay is that the same Chairman is now vocal against them who was mainly responsible for this mega tax fraud in the history of Central Board of Revenue.
My grievances concern the manner in which the last and highest position of Central Board of Revenue is dispensing justice, under your leadership.
Dear Sir, the dignity of officers is consistently being violated by you. They are treated harshly, rudely, brusquely and nastily. They are not heard. They are not allowed to present their case. There is little scope for difference of opinion. Mr Wahid Khursheed, an efficient Addition Collector was thrown out from the Central Board of Revenue when he expressed his personal opinion against your decision to post 22 Income Tax officers in the Customs/Sales Tax Wing. The words used in the department for Central Board of Revenue under your leadership are “The Mad House”, where no one knows who has to do what. There exists an Audit Wing, whose Member is drawing huge salary, whereas the audit is suspended since 2004. Then there is Customs Intelligence which is performing the job of Audit Wing. Sales Tax Wing does not know what is the dividing jurisdiction line between the Audit Wing, Intelligence Wing and Evaluation & Internal Audit Wing. Previously, you had handed over the Administration to HRM Wing, now again the Admn. Wing is separate. There is chaos everywhere. The officers are cowed down by aggression from the Board, led by you. All they receive from you is arrogance, aggression and belligerence. You also throw away the file, while contemptuously announcing: “This is rubbish”.
Yet this aggression is not for everyone. When Mr. Imtiyaz Dev, an Additional Collector related to Chaudary Shujaat appears, your worthy demeanour and appearance is not just sugar and honey. You cannot tolerate corruption, but for him you rang up Mr. Rashid Ahmed, Collector Refund Karachi to ‘evenly’ distribute the charges and give him “important” assignment. The Collector accordingly called the Additional Collector in his office and gave him the charge of his choice. Two times Mr. Imtiyaz Dev was transferred from the Refund Collectorate to the Directrate of Customs Valuation on consistent complaints of corruption, but on your directions, the transfers were cancelled which is on record. You misused your authority to favour him for reasons unknown to many, but not all! Presently, the officer is enjoying ex-Pakistan leave after reaping the benefits of “important” assignment given to him on your direction. It is only an instance to reflect double standards employed by you while administering Central Board of Revenue and its field departments. Apart from violating the dignity of officers, which the Constitution commands to be inviolable, the officers suffer discrimination at your hands.
I am not only raising the issue of verbal onslaughts and threats to officers, transfers on the basis of personal likes and dislikes and nepotism, demoralizing the officers by superseding them without any reason or justification, and reminding them time and again that “This is the new Central Board of Revenue”.
The way in which worthy Chairman manages CBR is not conducive to the process of justice and efficient functioning. In fact, it obstructs due process and constitutes mishandling of the prime institution responsible for the smooth sailing of national economy.
I am pained at the way official bribe has been given to the business community in your tenure. In the name of facilitation, sweeping measures have been taken to unduly favour the ‘selected’ business community. We must call it official bribe which the tax payers have received from the tax collectors for the first time in the history of this country under your Chairmanship. The moto is ‘deposit tax or take refund on your choice and don’t worry there will be no audit or check of any knid’. Since your coming into office, they have been granted excessive liberty to evade as much tax as they can and they are doing so tirelessly. If you consider CBR is achieving revenue targets because of your measures, it would only be a wishful thinking. It’s the direct outcome of economic boom due to the flow of foreign capital in the form of increased remittances, foreign loans and aids plus the impact of inflation and devaluation of rupee. Due to your over exaggerated facilitation measures; the Income Tax department has become totally toothless and ineffective. Self-assessment and annual audit go hand in hand in any tax system through out the world. In case of Pakistan, self-assessment has been introduced in Income Tax, Sales Tax and recently in Customs, but audit has been suspended. Various tax frauds, especially in case of refunds are the direct outcome of your this measure. It was your sole decision to suspend the audit in 2004, when the whole department was not in favour of it. 3 years later, today, you can analyse the wisdom behind those arguments which you had turned down at that time. On one hand audit was suspended and on the other, strict instructions were passed to field departments to dispose of refunds on priority. The combined effect came in the form of a number of tax frauds – top of it the biggest refund scandal of your friend – The Bawan Shah Group of Companies. Everyone knows your relationship with Bawan Shah. Your stays at his residence whenever you visited Karachi and the inauguration of his Shifa Eye Hospital Karachi are the memories still fresh in the minds of many.
Presently more than 72 refund cases are being investigated in NAB, more than 50 in Customs Intelligence and around 40 in the Directorate of Internal Audit – all thanks to your policies pursued for the last more than 3 years.
I am further pained by the credit you claim for automating the Central Board of Revenue, whereas it is well known what STARR and CARE soft-wares have played havoc with the department. Due to STARR, illegal refunds worth billion of rupees were paid unduly and due to CARE, thousands of containers were cleared without charging any customs duty thus giving tax loss of billions of rupees. In the face of it when you claim to have done miracles within the tax administration, this is referred to as a “Media Circus” in the department.
Sir, this communication may anger you and you are in any case prone to get angry in a flash, but do reflect upon it. Perhaps you are not cognizant of what your close collegues feel and say about you.
Dear Sir, before a final call arises from the upper echelons of state (as in the case of former Chief Justice of Supreme Court, Mr Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry), before the field formations stand up collectively and before the entire matter is placed before the Chief Executive, there may be time to change and make amends.
I hope you have the wisdom and courage to make these amends and restore serenity, calm, compassion, patience and justice tempered with mercy to country’s Central Board of Revenue.
Dear Sir, we all live in the womb of time and are judged, both by the present and by history. The judgment about you, being rendered in the present, is adverse in the extreme.
Supreme Court of