Islamabad: My brother Judges of the Supreme Court;
Honourable Chief Justice and Judges of the High Court of Sindh;
Learned President and office bearers of the Karachi Tax Bar Association;
Learned members of the Bar;
Ladies and Gentlemen!
It is a matter of great privilege for me to be invited to this august gathering of the largest Tax Bar of the country. Karachi, being hub of the nation’s economic growth and commercial activities has duly earned the distinction of having the most exclusive membership of Advocates, Chartered Accountants, Cost and Management Accountants, Tax Practitioners and Tax Consultants.
I appreciate the idea of Karachi Tax Bar Association for hosting this event which has provided the opportunity to sit together and share our thoughts, experiences and knowledge which we have gathered over the years and learn from each other. Such meaningful events not only help in the expansion of professional vision but also pave the way for achievement of higher goal of administration of justice in the society through pondering and discussions in a conducive environment.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
According to a recently released Prosperity Index Score 2011 developed by Legatum Institute London, Pakistan is at 107th position among a list of 110 countries as far as our nation’s prosperity is concerned. The remaining three countries are Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Central African Republic. Norway, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden and Canada are among the top scorer on this index.
This index merits attention as it does not measure nations’ prosperity against the traditional yardstick of income, per capita GDP. Rather, it goes beyond these and includes variables such as entrepreneurship, prosperity, governance, education, health, safety and security, personal freedom and social capital in addition to the health of the economy.
Improvement of the economic conditions of the people is the most fundamental requisite to prosperity as is emphasized by the Legatum Prosperity Index. The economy should grow on a sustained basis. But at the same time, increasing the size of the cake will not suffice. Rather, its distribution also matter for prosperity. Economic growth that fails to generate employment and reduce poverty will never guarantee a prosperous society. In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith says and I quote:
“No society can be flourishing and happy of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable”.
It still holds true. Thus, the first prerequisite for a prosperous society is inclusive economic growth where benefits of growth are widely shared in society. Such growth should necessarily generate employment.
To be able to realize such exalted economic standards of prosperity, the nations have to offer a lot in terms of sustained hard work and generation of necessary funds. Taxes are the cost citizens of a country pay for their safety, security and services they collectively receive from the State. Taxes furnish resources to the Government to carryout developmental projects for the welfare of its citizens.
Governments require a good and stable financial reserve to effectively administer the whole country. The revenue from domestic taxes provide the State with such reserve, otherwise it cannot effectively manage the services offered by it to the citizens. Resources for the administration of justice, social security, national defense, education, health etc are provided from the tax money of the people.
These amounts collected from the public fuel the governmental machinery by supporting its financial needs. If people do not bother for providing the resources then machinery of State cannot move progressively.
When people demand the facilities like developed nations then they have also to contribute for it. Here I remember the words of Wendell Holmes an American Jurist who said: “Taxes are the price we pay for civilized society.”
The challenges of law and order and terrorism posed by the present-day realities also require a well thought out approach to steer the state ship through the troubled waters in a smooth manner. In the given constitutional framework, the responsibility of the judiciary increases manifold to maintain a steady course and move forward in realizing the State objectives of national stability, consolidation, peace, tranquillity and taking steps in achieving economic growth, political stability, social progress and prosperity.
The Constitution has bestowed the judiciary with the responsibility to administer justice. Independent and impartial judiciary is a catalyst for change in a society. If justice is delayed or denied, public confidence will be shattered, the law and order situation will be jeopardized and consequently, the wheels of commerce will come to a grinding halt. No society can make any progress in a state of chaos and disorder.
Local and foreign investment is contingent upon the peace and good law and order situation. Where there is a culture of corruption and corrupt practices and people have to run from pillar to post for redress of their grievances, the investors are reluctant to invest. Without rule of law, peace and justice there can be no possibility of good governance. Judiciary by its attribute of administration of justice by maintaining rule of law has to play a significant role in sustaining peace and stabilizing the society.
No doubt Karachi is the hub of trade and economic activities of our country. Supreme Court of Pakistan in a Suo Moto case regarding the law and order situation in Karachi has, inter alia, observed that the law and order condition prevailing in a country has a direct and significant bearing on the pace and pattern of economic development of that country. The existence of basic socio-economic framework and the continuation of economic growth without any hindrance or interruption depend upon substance of better law and order situation.
Recognizing the importance of peace, stability, law and order situation for the socio-economic development, it was observed by the Supreme Court that immediately steps should be taken to depoliticize and strengthen the police. The appointments in the police should strictly be made on merits.
The turf war between different groups having economic, socio-political interest to strengthen their position was strongly condemned; of course no political party can be formed or operated in a manner prejudicial to the sovereignty of Pakistan.
It is responsibility of the provincial government and the Executive to ensure the protection of fundamental rights, smooth running of economic and commercial activities including elimination of No Go Areas, illegal shutter down and strikes. It is crucial that the judgment of the Supreme Court is implemented in letter and spirit to restore peace and tranquillity in the city of Karachi, the major business and economic hub of the country.
The judiciary has to ensure that the State organs and their functionaries also follow the constitutional principles and abide by its dictates. In discharging this heavy burden of administration of justice, the Court have to interpret the constitution and the law in a manner that the stability of democratic system, political dispensation, economic development, peace and security are upheld and further strengthened.
It is not possible to move the chariot of justice without co-operation of all the stakeholders. The Bar is a vital pillar of the administration of justice system. It is the duty of every member of the Bar, being the officer of the Court, at all times to uphold the dignity and high standard of profession. They should honestly assist the Court according to law being officer of the Court. They have to work for upholding the rule of law.
Feeling the importance of such co-operation and team work, the National Judicial Policy was framed through discussions, consultation and deliberation of the National Judicial Policy Making Committee with all the stake holders including the judges, lawyers and legal expert’s representatives from all the other relevant fields.
The bar was kept on board at the time of formulation of the Policy as well as its subsequent amendments. The main features of this Policy include the independence of Judiciary, eradication of corruption at all levels of the judicial hierarchy, reduction of the backlog of all categories of cases and introduction of essential judicial reforms keeping in view the present-day problems.
It goes without saying that the early disposal of cases having financial implications has direct nexus with the domestic and foreign investment and economic growth in the country. Keeping in new the importance of such commercial cases for the litigant parties and the State, it was decided in the National Judicial Policy that:
i. “Priority should be given to the disposal of trade, commercial and investment cases. Such cases should be managed on fast track through establishment of designated courts and by constituting special benches by High Courts and Supreme Court.” and
ii. “Banking, tax, duty, levy and cess cases should be decided within 6 months.”
In our society the culture of avoidance of tax and its evasion has been observed and is persistently creeping up. People are hesitant to pay their taxes. The potential targeted amount of money expected from the collection of taxes which is like a life blood for the national activities usually do not reach the public exchequer. Lack of awareness and public confidence may be the important factors amongst others which have created the issue of tax evasion.
If the people are made aware of the importance of paying taxes, it is possible that they may become inclined to paying it. Indeed it would be a good option to generate our own resources rather than seeking help from other nations at the cost of our sovereignty and self respect.
However, on the other hand, the reservations of the people that their money is not being properly utilized and there should be no wastage of this public money need due consideration. Complete check and balance system with zero tolerance for corruption can be useful in gaining the public confidence in this regard. Certainly, improvement in the system of taxation can be achieved by contribution of your precious and valuable experience.
Honesty, integrity and transparency coupled with corruption-less environment can trigger the economy as well as tax collection. Tax payers would also be encouraged if they are provided with one window operation facilities and their disputes are resolved expeditiously at every level including Federal Tax Ombudsman, Federal Board of Revenue and Courts.
Before parting, I want to make it clear that the Judiciary is fully aware of the contour of its power and jurisdiction which the Constitution has vested in it. This power is reinforced by the strong public confidence in it. Previously, the public confidence was shaken because people thought that their hard earned money which they paid in the form of taxes may reach the corrupt hands and be wasted. I assure you that the judiciary has resolved to protect the hard earned money of tax payers and bring it back to the public exchequer from the clutches of the usurpers.
City of our great Quaid has been tormented by the evils of Bhatha culture which discourages investment and scares people off. It is the need of the hour to eliminate this culture and provide safe environment to promote investment. Therefore, violators must be dealt with an iron hand and any hindrance in the implementation of directions on law and order situation of Karachi should not be countenanced. James Bryce rightly said that patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong.
Let me congratulate the Office bearers and members of the Karachi Tax Bar Association for organizing such memorable event. I am sure; the everlasting memories gathered today would remain with us and become part of history of bench bar relations.
I part with the prayers for your successful professional career.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH
For more information, contact:
Shahid Hussain Kamboyo
Public Relations Officer
Supreme Court of Pakistan
Tel: +9251 920 4184
Fax: +9251 920 1001