Sixty-seven per cent of Pakistani parliamentarians and 62 per cent of federal ministers paid no income tax last year, according to a report on tax evasion by political leaders released today.
The report titled "Representation Without Taxation", by the Center for Investigative Reporting in Pakistan, is based on data from the Federal Board of Revenue, Election Commission and other sources.
It is extremely critical of Pakistan's lawmakers and ministers at a time when the country is facing growing pressure from international financial institutions and the West for tax and economic reforms.
Only 20 ministers from the 55-member federal cabinet filed their tax returns last year while only 90 of the 341 sitting members of the National Assembly or lower house of parliament paid taxes during the same period, the report said.
Only 49 of the 104 members of the Senate or upper house of parliament paid taxes last year.
PML-Q secretary general Mushahid Hussain Sayed, a member of the Senate and a former minister, paid just Rs 82 as taxes, the report said.
Noting that Pakistan's tax-to-GDP ratio of nine per cent was one of the lowest in the region, the report said: "This poor performance results in significant budget deficits, reliance on heavy borrowing from domestic and foreign sources, and inability of the state to efficiently perform its mandated functions and responsibilities".
It further said, "The problem starts at the top. Those who make revenue policies, run the government and collect taxes, have not been able to set good examples for others".
Several media reports have said that Pakistan's parliamentarians and ministers pay little or no tax though many of them own property and businesses worth millions of rupees.
Only 260,000 of Pakistan's more than 170 million citizens have paid tax consecutively for the past three years, according to the FBR.
The report said Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf leader Jahangir Tareen (Rs 1.60 crore) and Pakistan People's Party leader Aitzaz Ahsan (Rs 1.29 crore) are among the top taxpayers.
On the other hand, former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Railway Minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour and Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim were among the members of the cabinet who did not file tax returns last year.
President Asif Ali Zardari too did not file a return in 2011, the report said.
Among the 20 cabinet members who paid taxes were Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf (Rs 1,42,536) and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar (Rs 69,619).
Pakistan is one of the world's largest