Pakistani Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar suggests re-imposing the tax on mobile top-ups in Pakistan to raise more funds for the construction of the dams. The country suspended all such taxes a few months ago.
Tax on mobile top-ups in Pakistan depends on people
On Monday when addressing a dam fundraising ceremony organized by the U.K. Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry in London, the chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) said if the people of the country agree, they could re-impose the tax on mobile top-ups in Pakistan. The point of the tax would be to raise funds for the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams.
“If the people of Pakistan allow us then we will re-impose the tax on the mobile phone cards and collect money for dams,” he said, according to local media reports. Since the tax was suspended in June, Pakistanis have saved about Rs3 billion per month, the CJP said. The suspension removed the 42% tax on mobile top-up cards, giving users the full amount of credit on all prepaid balance recharges.
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Nisar said he wouldn’t advise imposing more taxes but added that it is up to Pakistanis to decide if they want the tax on mobile top-ups to be imposed again. Nisar also invited people to share their opinions on the matter.
Does Pakistan need the dams?
Stressing the importance of the dams, Nisar said there is a need to construct a dam on every inch of the Indus River. He is also optimistic that one day all “four provinces will agree on construction of Kalabagh Dam.”
He also asked the country to take the needed steps to stop wasting water. Nisar added that climate change has decreased the amount of rainfall globally, including in Pakistan. The shortage of rain has also decreased the underground water level.
The CJP said he realized the gravity of the situation after the water crises in Karachi. He added that the so-called “water tanker mafia” and other groups are controlling the water supply in major cities, and the water level is falling in Quetta and Lahore. The CJP noted that people are being forced to pay between Rs7,000 and Rs10,000 for a tanker of water.
Nisar also said water conservation and the construction of dams is crucial for humanity and not just for Pakistan.
“I want to do this for our future generation,” the CJP said.
However, critics question if mega-dams like Diamer-Bhasha, the world’s sixth tallest dam, would solve Pakistan’s water worries. Dr. Daanish Mustafa from King’s College’s Department of Geography notes there are better ways to save water, like by using underground aquifers, improving water management and more.
“[The dam] just makes no sense whatsoever,” he said, according to The Telegraph.
CJP promises safety of funds
Nisar, who is visiting the United Kingdom to raise money for the dams, said the funding campaigns are proving a big success. The CJP thanked all those who contributed to the fund, including the Sikh community from foreign countries, the transgender community and other minorities.
Pakistan needs about $14 billion for the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams. So far, Rs7.9 billion has been collected. According to numbers from the State Bank of Pakistan, Rs7.09 billion has come from countrywide contributions, while the remaining has been donated by expatriates.
Topping the list of donations by expatriates are Pakistanis living in the U.S., with a contribution of Rs334 million to the fund. Pakistanis in the United Kingdom have donated Rs180 million to the find so far. About Rs120 million was raised via SMS services operated by the many cellular companies operating in the country.
As far as the safety of the donated funds, the CJP reiterated his commitment to saving every penny, adding that at his retirement, he would leave the money in “safe hands.” Further, he assured donors that the money is a loan from the nation, and he will make all the necessary arrangements to ensure the safety of the funds at his retirement.
Nisar, who is set to retire in January, said he would create a company for the purpose and “no one will be allowed to interfere in the funds being collected for the construction of dams.”