The federal government has chosen Muhammad Jahanzeb Khan, an outsider, as chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) — an appointment that comes at a time when the country faces the uphill task of doubling the tax revenue to Rs8 trillion.
The pressure on Jahanzeb, who becomes the fifth FBR chief in five years, will also be greater because the grade-22 officer faces the prospect of non-cooperative behaviour by officials in the tax body that will see a civil servant from the District Management Group, now called the Pakistan Administrative Service, take over the reins.
Jahanzeb’s actions will also be closely monitored since he has been chosen to spearhead one of Imran Khan’s greatest election slogan – ridding the FBR of corruption. However, interestingly, on the day his appointment was made, Dr Ikramul Haq, a prominent tax lawyer, tweeted that Jahanzeb faces “NAB enquiries in energy projects and award of escalation in Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi metro projects”.
Jahanzeb has worked closely with former chief minister of Punjab, Shehbaz Sharif, and is also considered a favourite of former president Asif Ali Zardari. The last PML-N government had at one point considered appointing Jahanzeb as chairman of the FBR or federal secretary finance but dropped the idea.
Jahanzeb will also be the secretary of the Revenue Division. Before his appointment as FBR chairman, Jahanzeb was serving as secretary at the Board of Investment.
His earlier assignment was chairman of the Planning and Development Department, Punjab.
In 2009, when Jahanzeb was a grade-20 officer, then president Zardari decided to send him as Pakistan’s ambassador to Paris, France. However, the Foreign Service opposed the move, forcing the government to withdraw its decision.
The Establishment Division has issued the notification for the FBR chairman’s appointment. However, the government has not yet appointed the new secretary of Board of Investment. It has also not given a new assignment to outgoing chairperson of the FBR, Rukhsana Yasmeen.
Jahanzeb will be the first FBR chairman appointed during the tenure of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government. The FBR has seen three chairpersons in the last 13 months.
He is the second chairman appointed from outside the Inland Revenue Service and Customs Group in the last five years. Earlier, the PML-N government had picked Tariq Bajwa, also from the DMG, in 2013 to run the FBR.
Like Bajwa, Jahanzeb is also an outsider and has been given preference over almost half a dozen grade-22 officers of the FBR. One of his immediate challenges will be to win over the FBR’s support, which has a track record of not accepting outsiders.
Jahanzeb’s appointment has been made at a time when Prime Minister Imran Khan promised to reform the ‘inefficient and corrupt’ FBR. The new PTI government has also vowed to restructure the tax machinery with a goal to double the country’s tax collection.
The FBR collected Rs3.842 trillion in taxes in the last fiscal year and Prime Minister Imran Khan has promised to increase it to Rs8 trillion.
The PTI government has also made certain surprise postings, including appointing Tariq Pasha as secretary Kashmir Affairs. Earlier, Pasha was serving at a low-profile post of secretary Statistics Division. Secretary to Prime Minister, Azam Khan, played a key role in giving Pasha the prized posting.
The PTI government also considering bringing the chairman FBR from the private sector but subsequently dropped the idea.