ISLAMABAD - Intense lobbying is on to clinch the coveted slot of Chairman Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) after Shabbar Zaidi went on a long leave which is seen as a resignation by many.

Shabbar Zaidi went on indefinite leave from February 3, 2020. It is not clear yet Zaidi would return to the office. However, some officials have started lobbying to get the post of Chairman FBR. There are some news that some bureaucrats have approached Prime Minister Imran Khan and Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Abdul Hafeez Shaikh through different channels for becoming new Chairman FBR. 

The government is so far denying that it is looking for new Chairman FBR.

The FBR last week said that Shabbar Zaidi is on medical leave and he will assume the charge of Chairman, FBR as soon as he gets medically fit.

Sources close to Zaidi informed that he was annoyed after Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Abdul Hafeez Shaikh last month had expressed concerns over the performance of the FBR. He had directed Chairman FBR to transfer all those officers who were not performing and against government reforms agenda.

However, Zaidi had not transferred any officer since then. The FBR is continuously failing to achieve its monthly tax collection targets during ongoing fiscal year.

Similarly, Zaidi is not in favour of increasing taxes  like mini budget, as demanded by International Monetary Fund (IMF) for bridging the tax collection shortfall.

Pakistan is struggling to convince IMF for not bringing mini budget, further increasing gas and electricity prices that would fuel the inflation rate. Inflation had recorded at 14.6 per cent in January 2020— scaling the highest level in 12 years.

IMF believes that FBR could not achieve the revised tax collection target of Rs 5238 billion set for the current fiscal year without mini budget. Policy level talks between Pakistan and International Monetary Fund (IMF) have started on Monday for the third tranche of $450 million under Extended Fund Facility (EFF).

In last week, both the sides had held technical talks. The ongoing policy level talks are expected to conclude on February 13. The IMF would release third tranche worth of $450 million if visiting delegation express satisfaction over economic situation of the country.

Pakistan has so far received $1.44 billion from IMF in two tranches. The IMF in July 2019 had approved a 39-month extended arrangement under EFF for Pakistan for an amount of about $6 billion.

An official informed that Pakistan and IMF held talks for giving autonomy to State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and in National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) Act yesterday . Pakistan has assured that government will present the bill to give autonomy to SBP by next month. Similarly, bill related to amending the NEPRA act would be presented within ongoing financial year.

Pakistan has also informed the Fund that government would conduct the audit of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and Pakistan Steel Mills from the certified International auditors.