ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication met on Monday to discuss the withdrawal of customs duty exemption on one imported phone per calendar year, under the personal baggage rules.
Committee Chairperson Senator Rubina Khalid inquired from the FBR representative on the reasons for this withdrawal. The FBR representative explained that this was being done to reduce the losses to the national exchequer in the form of duty.
When senators questioned the FBR official on the amounts of duty being lost due to this exemption, he did not have any numerical answer. He said that he did not have the required information and will let the committee know once he has inquired about it.
Senator Dr Shehzad Waseem said that such taxation is “penny wise pound foolish”. The chairperson added that one phone per visit should have been allowed unless the same mobile phones are allowed at competitive process within Pakistan.
She said, “FBR did not have anything to do with DRIBS in the first place, they forced themselves and then they ruined it further [backing out].”
Senator Faisal Javed Khan said, “Our research calculates that once you pay taxes on a phone [brought from abroad] the final price ends up being even higher than buying the same phone from the local market.”
He added, “We should be helping the Pakistani expats, who are sending $22 billion to the country, instead of creating more difficulties for them.”
He reiterated the question to the FBR official on how much they are losing by not allowing this exemption.
Air Commodore Nadeem Shinwari, attending the committee session, stated, “When our attachés go abroad, we give them official phones. So when they come back, they obviously carry their personal phones along with these phones, which causes trouble. The officers cannot even such phones registered because they are state property.”
In response to this, Senator Rehman Malik got enraged and demanded that the committee passes a resolution right there and then and command the FBR to reverse this withdrawal. “We should sign this issue and if the FBR representatives do not follow it, we should hold them in contempt.”
Although this zeal got lost in the discussion afterwards, the senators did remind that the customs member had sat before this very committee earlier and agreed on allowing one mobile phone to be brought back to Pakistan without any duty.
When the FBR representative tried to counter this argument by saying that it allowed crime to increase such as registration of mobile phones with stolen ID card numbers, the committee chairperson angrily replied that the solution to such a problem is not to suspend a facility to the general public, rather strengthen the rule of law and its implementation.
Following this discussion, Senator Rehman Malik also pointed out that Pakistan’s international airports do not even have a Wi-Fi service for passengers. In response, the Air Force officer said, “Cyber threat is maximum from open Wi-Fi sources.”
On this, the senator replied that security is not only a significant factor for Pakistan but for every country in the world and that it was about time “we stepped into the first world and out of the third world”.