Indus Water Talks to Property Valuations Demand; Infocus Weekly Briefs

by M. Wasim

5 June 2022

Bilateral Indus Water Talks held

India and Pakistan began their mandatory talks over the 1960 Indus Water Treaty this week. The Pakistani delegation had crossed over from Wagah-Attari border to hold talks. Speaking to media Pakistan’ Indus Water Commissioner Mehr Ali Shah says “The talks are a part of treaty obligation that we have to fulfill under the Indus Water Treaty. It is a continuous process. So, it should continue, but in a meaningful manner. In this way, we can resolve issues bilaterally. It also depends on the Indian side on how they respond.”

Pakistan has objected to upstream Indian hydel projects on rivers they share. India says its projects are in compliance with the treaty. The two-day talks are expected to see both sides talking about water sharing, advance information on flood waters and other related issues. This is the second Pakistani delegation to visit India in the last few weeks.

Realtors demand Property Valuations by Provinces

Pakistan’s Real Estate sector has asked the government to transfer the decision of determination of Property Valuation from federal to provincial governments. In a letter written to the federal government, the realtors have asked the government to reform the real estate sector to boost its share in the economy. It was suggested in the correspondence that the provincial governments have the infrastructure and field force to collect taxes and evaluate property taxes as opposed to the federal government’s capacity. 

In the upcoming budget proposals for the next fiscal year Pakistan’s realtors asked the federal finance minister to exclude Section 68(4) of Income Tax Ordinance 2001 immediately besides Property Valuation should only be done by Provincial Govt who are already practicing it and capable of doing it as they already have Field Force Revenue Department. Similarly, the realtors also suggested that federal taxes such as capital gain tax and advance tax be calculated as per the DC rates determined by the provincial government.   Moreover, the realtors also suggested the following changes in the tax net and calculations in order to make it beneficial for both the clients and the realtors.

Anti-Encroachment Operation against Illegal Buildings

The Lahore Development Authority (LDA)’ Town Planning Wing claims to have demolished or sealed several illegal commercial buildings and plazas on the Ferozepur Road in an anti encroachment operation. The operation was also conducted in Samanabad, Chauburji, Krishan Nagar, Jail Road, Shadman, Muslim Town, Township, Old Kahna, Nishter Stop and Gujjumata areas.

The Disruptive Demolition Drives in Karachi

The anti-encroachment operations were conducted on the directions of Chief Town Planner and led by Town Planning-1 Directors. LDA sources said that a massive anti-encroachment operation against multi-storied buildings was conducted during the Shehbaz Sharif`s last tenure as Punjab chief minister. However, some LDA officers allowed construction of high-rises without any legal provision and fee during ex-CM Usman Buzdar`s term. “There were several buildings and plazas constructed during the past government without implementing LDA laws or paying due fees, some of the officers of the authority were violating laws and not taking action against these structures”, says one source.

SEPA asks Dismissal of Appeal against Malir Expressway

The Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) this week argued before an environmental tribunal that the appeals filed against the controversial Malir Expressway project were not maintainable for being time barred and asked for their dismissal. SEPA Director General Naeem Mughal made this submission while filing para-wise comments to the identical appeals challenging the grant of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) approval to the project launched by M/s Malir Expressway Limited.

Malir Expressway
Malir Expressway; More Baneful than Beneficial

In the comments, the SEPA chief stated that the appeals were time barred as the project`s EIA was approved on April 6 while the appeals were filed on May 13 with an unexplained delay of about a week. The tribunal headed by retired Justice Nisar Ahmed Shaikh asked the lawyers for the appellants to advance arguments as to whether or not the appeals were time barred as claimed by the Sepa chief.

Civil Society slams Blanket Removal of Energy Subsidies

Addressing a press conference this week, members of a coalition of civil society organisations working on the country`s energy transition to renewable sources said the International Monetary Fund hasn’t yet taken concrete measures or provided specific assistance for countering the climate-change impact under its extended fund facility (EFF) loan programmes. The global lender claims to support favourable tax regimes and spending policies for climate-vulnerable countries, however a blanket removal of energy subsidies and tax reforms are inconsistent with the climate strategy of the International Monetary Fund.

Significance of Solar Energy in Pakistan

“The present climate emergency has not even been discussed in the recent talks. . . . These toxic policy outcomes are the result of contradictory and selfdefeating IMF structural adjustments and the distortive effects of its lending practices” says one member. Although the prime minister has announced the removal of the 17% sales tax on solar panels, there`s still no road map for its implementation. Meanwhile, the tax on wind, electric vehicles and related technologies remains in place. “The IMF board must ensure that the taxes on solar, wind and electric vehicles are withdrawn at the earliest”, adds another member.

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