In an instance of gross misuse of authority, Privatisation Minister Senator Waqar Ahmed, one of the country’s richest lawmakers, is using his ministry to import three bullet proof vehicles for personal and family use, on grounds that he faces a threat to his life. If the minister has his way, millions of rupees in taxes and import duties payable to the national exchequer will be avoided, officials warn.
On the senator’s directions, privatisation secretary has written a letter to interior secretary for import of the vehicles. The letter is composed on the pretext that Senator Ahmed is receiving threats to his life.
The privatisation minister sought the vehicles for his father, Senator Gulzar Ahmad, and his brother, Senator Ammar Ahmed, said the sources.
For the import of a bullet-proof vehicle, a No Objection Certificate from the interior ministry is required, or else an additional 20 per cent duty is levied by the government, besides the duties levied on the import of a luxury vehicle.
An official of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) said that irrespective of official or private purpose, the import of bulletproof vehicles is subject to duties. However, the prime minister and the FBR have the authority to waive them.
It is yet to be seen if, in this case, the government allows for duty-free import of three bullet-proof vehicles and if not, the question remains as to who will bear the expense of the extra tariffs imposed on such imports.
Under the rules, a cabinet minister is entitled to use an 1800CC car. Usage of a car beyond this specification requires permission from the prime minister. It may also be pointed out that the fuel consumption of a bullet-proof car is greater than that of an 1800CC car, and the extra burden is subsequently borne by the government.
The Public Accounts Committee has already taken strong exception to the misuse of official vehicles. It has sought a detailed report on cars being used by government functionaries and given a ruling to recover the extra cost of fuel from respective secretaries.
Senator Waqar, in a talk with The Express Tribune, said he sought permission for the import of one bullet-proof vehicle for his personal use, with an assurance that he would pay for this. His brother and his father moved separate applications, he added. However, when contacted, the office of the secretary privatization confirmed that the actual number of vehicles for which exemption was requested was three, and not one.
In response, Senator Waqar clarified that secretary privatization just sent a reminder to the interior ministry. “I used the secretary’s office to send a reminder to the interior ministry for the issuance of an NOC, as I think the bureaucracy can easily obtain permission after my request to Interior Minister Rehman Malik fell on the deaf ears,” he said while speaking to The Express Tribune.
He added that he would purchase the vehicles and pay all duties. “However, I have yet to find a financier to buy the bullet-proof vehicles on lease,” he said.