In democracy, taxes play an important role — the elected representatives, who under Article 77 of the Constitution enjoy exclusive power to levy taxes, have greater responsibility to discharge their personal tax obligations and ensure enforcement of tax laws across the board. In Pakistan, unfortunately, record shows a very disturbing picture of non-compliance of tax laws by legislators. They, thus, themselves violate Rule of Law — in fact there exists an unholy nexus between law makers, law keepers, and law breakers that has eroded the authority and moral fabric of the State.The analysis of Decade of Democracy [2008-18] and first 100-days of Government of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) shows that we have ‘democracy’ (many call it a sham) sans tax culture — its most vivid example is non-payment of Income Support Levy, payable only for tax year 2013 but remains unpaid till today by 99.9 percent of parliamentarians (senators and members of national/ provincial assemblies). The list of defaulters, as per Parliamentarian Tax Directory for Year Ended 2013, released by Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), include incumbent and ex prime ministers, leaders of Opposition and heads of all the political parties. Failure of FBR in recovering this tax from the parliamentarians proves its inefficiency beyond any doubt and also confirms that the apex revenue authority is captive in the hands of the political masters and people with money power. Hopefully, Premier Imran Khan and Finance Minister Asad Umar will take note of it and make it a test case to take action against those officials who caused huge tax loss to the national exchequer. It is also a fit case for National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for bringing the law-makers, law-keepers and law-breakers to the court of law. Open defiance of tax laws by legislators and other powerful segments of society is the most lamentable part of our political culture. Nawaz Sharif, three-times elected Prime Minister, was convicted for concealing salary as well as bank accounts maintained abroad. However, Nawaz Sharif is not the only one having an established record of tax default. The incumbent Prime Minister for 17 years did not declare and pay local wealth tax on a London flat purchased in 1983. But by availing Musharraf’s Tax Amnesty Scheme of 2000, he escaped disqualification as per the decision of the Supreme Court. Nawaz Sharif did not even care to avail his own amnesty schemes!According to a news report [PTI legislators and federal taxes, February 20, 2017], in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), a number of parliamentarians of PTI, including some ministers, did not bother to either file income tax returns or showed zero income tax liability. The issue is not confined to KP. Tax Directory for 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 and declarations filed with ECP confirm that majority of legislators are extremely callous about their tax obligations. When elected members are not keeping their financial matters transparent, how can they enforce accountability of generals, judges and bureaucrats? The legislators have perpetually failed to submit annual statements of assets and liabilities of their own, along with those of their spouses and dependents, to Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in time ie by the 30th September each year. Examination of their declarations from 2013 to 2017 shows that a vast majority even did not follow the prescribed manner in which details are required to be filed and ECP has never issued them any notice.It is worth mentioning that ECP on November 28, 2016 reactivated its Political Finance Wing for random scrutiny of the declarations of assets and liabilities of legislators. This decision came in the wake of disqualification petitions against Nawaz Sharif, his offspring and son-in-law, Federal Finance Minister, Chairman and General Secretary of PTI etc. The best way to scrutinise the declarations of lawmakers and all persons in the service of Pakistan, including judges and generals, is through constituting a joint Parliamentary Standing Committee on ‘Asset Disclosures & Investigation’ that is assisted by experts having skills and impeccable reputationIt was claimed by ECP that it had started scrutinising the declarations of as many as 100 parliamentarians from December 1, 2016, but nothing is known about its outcome even after a passage of two years. The Political Finance Wing of ECP reportedly sought the help of FBR, Auditor General, provincial revenue departments, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and other institutions. Political Finance Wing and Confidential Wing of ECP were also merged into a Directorate for carrying out the task of scrutiny. It was said by ECP that “if any legislator is found guilty of concealing his assets or making any other false declarations, he/she is considered committing ‘corrupt practices’ to be tried under the law that prescribes imprisonment for a term of up to three years”. However, ECP has not made the results public of the scrutiny of the 100 parliamentarians so far in terms of Article 19A of the Constitution. It appears that the scrutiny process by ECP was nothing but eyewash.There still exists no meaningful coordination between ECP, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Security & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), FBR, NAB, FIA and other watchdogs. As long as these institutions keep on working in isolation, there will not be any result-oriented scrutiny of the legislators. The best way to scrutinise the declarations of lawmakers and all persons in the service of Pakistan, including judges and generals, is through constituting a joint Parliamentary Standing Committee on ‘Asset Disclosures & Investigation’ that is assisted by experts having skills and impeccable reputation. This House Committee should be empowered by law to examine the declarations of lawmakers, judges, generals, civil servants etc and order concerned departments to probe sources of acquisition of assets and expenses, and take legal action(s) in case of any lapse. It is time that all political parties should seriously consider enacting a comprehensive accountability law that may be called ‘Investigation of Declarations of State Functionaries & Public Representatives Act, 2019’. Under this law, NAB, FIA, FBR, ECP, SBP and any other department or institutions should be obliged to share information with ‘Joint Standing Committee on Asset Disclosures & Investigation’ all declarations filed by persons in the service of Pakistan and elected representatives or any other information specifically required for any investigation.The Committee would compare declarations filed under the Civil Servants Act, 1973, Army Act, 1952, Election Act, 2017 and related rules with those filed under the Income Tax Law or with any other department for any purpose. In case of any discrepancy or proof of suppression and/or concealment (may be provided by anybody or a whistleblower), the Committee can refer the matter to the relevant department/authority eg SBP, FBR, NAB, FIA, military authorities, as the case may be, to take action under the law. Such a system of accountability is prevalent in many countries known to be highly transparent as per authentic surveys and indices. Since Premier Imran Khan is serious about countering corruption, as he reiterated in his speech on the occasion of his first-100 day in power, he must take concrete steps towards implementing this system. The writer, Advocate Supreme Court, is Adjunct Faculty at LUMS. Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @drikramulhaqPublished in Daily Times, December 2nd 2018.