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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Former Foreign Secretary hits out at Shehbaz government

Former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan Tehmina Janjua said the 35% income tax will negatively impact the morale of missions abroad.

Former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan Tehmina Janjua has lashed out at the Shehbaz Sharif government for imposing a high tax on diplomats’ foreign allowance.

Earlier, the Finance Ministry imposed a 35% income tax on foreign allowance given to diplomats while posted abroad and threatened to go on pen down strike at headquarters and missions abroad.

Taking to Twitter, Tehmina Janjua said the 35% income tax will negatively impact the morale of missions abroad. The government needs to review the decision, Tehmina Janjua, who is also the first woman Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, said.

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“Deduction of allowances of officials posted abroad is a thoroughly insensible measure. Will gravely affect the morale and functioning of our missions abroad. And the supposed economic benefits? Inconsequential. The decision needs urgent review,” Tehmina Janjua tweeted. She had previously served under former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif, Shahid Khaqan, and Imran Khan.

To clarify, the tax imposed by the Finance Ministry on foreign service officers is also applied to their entertainment allowance, education subsidy, government accommodation, medical facility, sumptuary allowance, transport, and every facility available to officers during posting abroad.

Pakistani senior diplomats posted abroad explained that it means officers have to spend entertainment allowance for the government interests and even then they are required to give 35% tax on it from their pocket.

35% income tax receives criticism

Senior officers in the Foreign Office told the media that they have written to Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to take up the matter immediately with the Finance Ministry otherwise they would shut down Foreign Office and Pakistan embassies and consulates abroad.

Needless to say, the move is sparking severe criticism as it would not help Pakistan in getting foreign policy objectives fulfilled, particularly economic diplomacy, which requires extra resources to reach out to foreign companies and investors.

“In an ill-thought-out move, the government has imposed income tax on the foreign allowance of Pakistani diplomats, give that the last revision on the foreign allowance was in 2011, with rising inflation worldwide, the government is robbing Pakistan’s diplomats undue and then expects them to deliver,” journalist Anas Mallick tweeted.

Important to note that Pakistani diplomats and ambassadors have often complained of being underfunded or not getting paid their salaries. Last year, the Embassy of Pakistan in the United States had run out of funds to pay salaries for at least four months to some of its employees.

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