Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser on Thursday stressed the need for protecting the interests of tobacco farmers and ending their exploitation.He was chairing a meeting at Parliament House, Islamabad to discuss budget proposals for giving relief to tobacco farmers. “The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) should take steps so that the burden of tobacco taxation is not passed on to growers. The tobacco farmers should be provided maximum relief as they constitute the most vulnerable segment in the entire tobacco value chain,” he said.A working group on tobacco growers’ concerns, headed by the Parliamentary Secretary for Commerce Shandana Gulzar Khan, briefed the panel about the concerns of tobacco growers. Shandana Gulzar Khan underlined the need for striking a balance between revenue collections, health concerns and interests of the farmers.The group comprises members of the Special Committee on Agricultural Products, members from tobacco growing districts, and provincial ministers. They maintained that the entire economy of tobacco growing districts revolve around single crop, tobacco, which served as their sole source of livelihood.The members remarked the FBR should not ignore the political economy and political dynamics of the tobacco growing regions. Speaker Asad Qaiser highlighted that millions of households were affiliated with the tobacco value chain and emphatically stressed that the revenue authorities should pay heed to unintended effects of tobacco taxation on the growers. The panel expressed reservations over the Federal Excise Duty on tobacco on the grounds that despite being an adjustable excise duty, it had negatively affected the farmers who were left with lesser avenues to sells their crop.The KP Provincial Minister for Sports, Tourism, Archeology and Youth Affairs outlined that levying Federal Excise Duty (FED) at GLT stage had precluded the tobacco dealers and middlemen to effectively engage in tobacco trade and had decreased the bargaining power of the farmers. The FBR chairman informed the participants that the currently finance bill clearly stated that the effect of FED should not be passed on to growers and the burden should be entirely borne by the cigarette manufacturers. It was also highlighted that the FED was intended for tracking and tracing of tobacco purchases in order to prevent tax evasion. The FBR officials maintained that the local industry continued to evade taxes and cause a loss to the national exchequer. They remarked that the taxation regime never intended to press the tobacco farmers. The FBR chairman and State Minister for Revenue sought recommendations of the panel and assured that such recommendations pertaining to preventing the burden of taxation being passed to growers will be incorporated in the finance bill.Speaker Asad Qaiser formed a taskforce to find viable solutions to protect the tobacco growers and present policy recommendations to the FBR by Tuesday, June 18, 2019.The meeting was attended by MNA Syed Fakhar Imam, MNA Usman Khan Tarakai, MNA Sher Akbar Khan, MNA Shandana Gulzar Khan, MNA Nafeesa Inyaat Ullah Khattak, MNA Mujahid Ali, Senator Dilawar Khan, Senator Shibli Faraz, Senator Meher Taj Roghani, KP Provincial Minister for Sports, Tourism, Archeology and Youth Affairs, Muhammad Khan Atif Khan, KP Minister for Local Government, Elections and Rural Development Shahram Khan Tarakai, Special Assistant to CM KP on Industries Abdul Karim Khan, Chairman FBR Shabbar Zaidi, State Minister for Revenue Hammad Azhar and officials of FBR.