In the good old days, when Karachi was a peaceful, non-violent and vibrant city, my dear friend, the late Aslam Rizvi, fondly known as Chapo to us, had staged a play, ‘Catch me if you can’, at the old American Centre, opposite Frere Hall.

The comedy drama was based on a true story about Frank Abagnale Junior, who had successfully conned millions of dollars from the public, posing as a Pan American World Airways pilot, a Georgia doctor and a Louisiana parish prosecutor. Steven Spielberg had also made a film on the story, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks and Christopher Walken.

Chapo had asked me to play the part of the fumbling, stumbling Colombo type detective, while the rest of the cast had been an assortment of Chapo’s budding ‘non-state actor’ friends.

The plot was simple and straightforward and not as complicated and twisted as the present dramas that are being played on Centre Stage of the Supreme Court of Pakistan for the last several years, starring our leading state and non-state actors.

To keep the suspense alive and interesting, new episodes are added, with true to life drama and efforts have also been made to change the leading stars. Most of the actors in these productions have been trained by the Royal Academy of Frauds and are experts in the skills of not being caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

However, this time, the tsunami that could sweep them into the ocean, has been triggered by a report on the Tax Dodgers, prepared by young Umar Cheema, a senior correspondent of The News and released by the newly-established Centre for Investigative Reporting, Pakistan (CIRP).

At the same time, Chairman of FBR and NAB have also  revealed that this country of the Pak and the Pure is losing Rs. 7 billion, which has now been raised to about Rs. 10 billion, due to corruption in various forms. This assessment has been backed by TI’s Corruption Perception Index, 2012, which has now placed Pakistan, from 43rd last year to 33rd this year, as the most corrupt country in the world.

However, the figures released by FBR and NAB’s seem to be on a high side and have been vehemently denied and challenged by the government. Heads of both organizations have stated that 200 MNAs and 60 Senators have failed to pay their taxes, as they did not file their income tax returns. While 88 parliamentarians did not even bother to get themselves registered with the FBR or get a National Tax Number (NTN), which is the basic requirement for filing tax returns.

In short, more than 60 per cent of the cabinet and two-thirds of the federal lawmakers have not paid a rupee in taxes in the last year, including the president, who did not even file the tax return for 2011. While 34 out of 55 cabinet ministers paid nothing either, including our former prime minister and Rehman Malik, our Minister for All Problems.

As always, with their ‘Catch Me If You Can’ skills, these “tax Dodgers’ have managed to outsmart the Tax Collectors for many years and have managed to stay out of the tax net.

Where lies the truth, is for the experts to examine, but the CIRP report has sent alarm bells ringing in the corridors of power in Islamabad, as it has given the names of the State Actors and the political parties they belong to.

But for the first time in Pakistan, The Untouchables, who blatantly move around our cities in their Chariots of Fire, breaking and flouting traffic rules and the laws of the country with impunity, have been exposed and Chairman FBR has taken up the case, but will he be allowed by the powerful and corrupt to move forward?

We already have one of the lowest tax-to-GDP ratios in the world, at around 9.2 per cent, therefore it is shameful that Rs7 billion are gobbled up in corruption every single day, which has now been increased to Rs 10 billion by NAB Chairman.

However, the question that is being asked by many is, if there is much blatant corruption in the country, then why have FBR and NAB failed to identify, catch and prosecute a single person?

According to experts, ‘The tax system is one of the fundamental elements of a constitutional democracy. If elected members do not discharge their tax obligations diligently, the entire democratic system will be discredited’.

‘The legislators are supposed to be role models and are under oath to work under the supreme law of the land and if they commit en masse violation of tax laws and are cheats, then it is the subversion of the constitution’.

But instead of going after the tax dodgers and punishing them, the government, in its infinite wisdom, has plans to legitimize tax evasion by introducing the controversial Tax Amnesty Bill, which will facilitate tax dodgers to whiten their illegal wealth and black money, by paying a paltry sum to the government.

Senior bankers, including a former State Bank Governor, have warned that Pakistan is heading for an economical and social meltdown and unless changes in our system of governance are introduced on a war footing, the doom and gloom day scenario will become a reality within months.

And as the Election Season draws nearer, while Pakistan stands on the brink of economic and social disaster, the Enemy Within is preparing to launch a new series of suspense dramas.

However, will the new ‘democratically elected leader’ be able to enter the NA and convince the legislators that ‘Ill-gotten wealth is a curse, as it destroys the souls of all those who use it’? Will it be able to take action against the corrupt and crooked MNAs and Senators who are tax dodgers and establish across the board accountability and punish those who are guilty, without fear and favor?

Will the new government be able to stop the economic meltdown and change the mindset of the brutal killers, who blow up schools and kill innocent men, women and children in the name of Islam? Can a cheetah change its spots? Certainly not an easy task and more like a ‘Mission Impossible’.

May God save Pakistan from ruthless killers, cheaters and tax dodgers, who govern us under the shadow of democracy.

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