Daily Times Editorial 3 September 2019

Israeli atrocities against Palestinian children


Though the world chose to be a silent spectator to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s intention of extending Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, the Jewish state reacted very strongly to a mild-worded report by the Committee on the Rights of Children over “torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian children.” The body of independent legal experts, tasked by the United Nations to monitor the protection of children rights in signatory states, issued a reminder to Israel to fulfill its responsibility to prevent torture of children, highlighting ground realities in occupied territories where Israeli forces keep killing Palestinian minors and adults alike. The committee expressed “its deepest concern about the reported practice of torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian children arrested, prosecuted and detained by the military and the police, and about the State party’s failure to end these practices in spite of repeated concerns expressed by treaty bodies.” The report mentioned Israeli forces’ brutal methods such as physical and verbal violence, humiliation, painful restraints, hooding of the head and face in a sack, threatening with death, physical violence, and sexual assault against themselves or members of their family and restricted access to toilet, food and water.
Though the report hardly evoked any reaction from the world, Israel was quick to dub it as ‘bold, scandalous lie’. Social media and international channels document and air Israeli atrocities in the occupied territories but the Israeli state said the report was not based on any direct investigation on the ground. The fact is Israel never let independent bodies into the occupied territories. A few weeks ago, it did not allow a US congress member, whose family lives in occupied area, to visit them. Also, a UNICEF report about the treatment of Palestinian children highlighted “widespread, systematic and institutionalised” abuse of minors detained by Israeli security forces in the West Bank.
It seems Israel has been given a license to brazenly flout all international laws and humanitarian norms. Recently, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said he would extend Israeli colonies in the occupied West Bank as part of his election promise. Netanyahu has long been playing the role of a reckless, uncontrolled brat in the Arab region with the backing of the US. This will continue unless the Arab world unites and, with the help of European and Muslim countries, puts pressure on the US to change its policy of backing every step of the Jewish state and realise the two-state solution. *



Ending tax officials’ inspection of factories


The decision of Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar to halt inspection of factories by tax officials, and relying on owners’ self-assessment in submission of tax returns, is laudable but the said figures must pass strict scrutiny. Factory owners have long been demanding the scrapping of tax officials’ visits to workplaces as most times they only caused undue pressure. Tax officials’ visits to workplaces often resulted in exploitation, and could not stem the tide of tax evasion. It is yet to be seen if the federal tax collection department – Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) – will also follow suit. The FBR is struggling to settle tax evasion cases and widen the net. It is high time reforms are introduced in the FBR so tax evasion cases are decided at an expedited rate given the fact the board has managed to settle only 30 per cent of the cases this year. Also, tax theft has become a norm in the absence of stringent mechanisms and lack of coordination among departments.
The government has yet to release the self-assessment mechanism. Tax collection departments rely on tax officials’ visits to workplaces and intelligence reports to ascertain tax theft cases. Earlier this year, Intelligence and Investigation-Inland Revenue Directorate General unearthed Rs170 billion worth of tax evasion and fiscal fraud cases. Such efforts bite the dust when tax evaders, having fat bank accounts, spend lavishly on buying time and favours from tax officers and courts.
The recent initiative of the Punjab government stems from traders’ and industrialists’ demands. Some FBR regional tax offices and large taxpayers units had started pursuing the inspections efficiently. Earlier this year in Faisalabad region, traders started a protest drive against, what they call, harassment of traders by FBR officials. They said FRB teams raided their workplaces with gun-touting men and seized their records. The FBR says most times industrialists and traders deny any access to record, and for that reason, they have to raid the places with heavy handed manners. Whatever the reason, tax officials should not be allowed to humiliate people.
In the self-assessment regime, tax officials should have easy access to business records. They should apply technology, laws and effective intelligence to reach accounts and business transaction details. One can hope the self-assessment scheme will help the government improve tax recoveries. This can happen when, instead of hounding taxpayers, the tax department introduces incentives for taxpayers. *
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