ISLAMABAD: The Income Tax Amendment Bill 2016 became a bone of contention between the treasury and opposition benches National Assembly (NA) on Thursday. It aims to amend Income Tax Ordinance 2001. speaking over the issue, PPP’s Naveed Qamar said traders were being provided amnesty, especially those who have never paid the taxes and that the bill discriminates against those who pay their taxes regularly. He grieved that influential traders were being provided an opportunity to get rid of their past tax dues. “Constitution speaks of equality. Is this equality?” Qamar questioned while alleging that the bill is being introduced to favour a particular group of big shot traders whom the incumbent regime wants to please before the next general elections. “Their claim that the bill will broaden the tax net is wrong,” he asserted, adding that an amnesty of this sort sends the signal to the taxpayers that “they are foolish”. Qamar said the bill will allow the influential traders to pay taxes at the rate of one percent and forget about their past dues. The tax schemes fail because of public distrust, he said while alleging that smugglers, thieves and parliamentarians have all been included in one category. Opposition leader Khursheed Shah said, “It is a breach of parliament if parliamentarians are included in the same category as thieves.” He said that a constitutional clause prohibits such persons from becoming members of any legislative assembly. Shah lamented that the bill is being passed despite the fact that the opposition has time and again raised reservations against it. It will shake the confidence of regular taxpayers, he warned. He grieved that in 2008 the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) government had collected Rs 1,009 billion in revenue compared with Rs 2,000 billion in 2012, while the incumbent regime has only increased it up to Rs 2,300 billion. This “minuscule” increase is despite the imposition of Rs 40 billion in new taxes. Shah read out the past speeches of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, when he was in opposition and cited many references of him opposing the passing of the same bill. Shah added that the agenda of the treasury benchers when they were in opposition has reversed with the efforts to get this bill passed. PTI’s Shah Mehmood Queshi said, “If the past speeches of Dar are to be taken into consideration then both the treasury and opposition benchers will mutually agree that the bill is unnecessary.” He said the country will continue to beg before international financial institutions (IFIs) if the tax net and tax-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio are neglected. “More than the defence budget is being spent on debt servicing,” “Efforts are underway to pass this bill for the ninth time,” he noted while further saying that this is the second attempt of the government to get it passed. Separately, Minister of State for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali told the House that construction work on Dasu Dam will start in the next few months. He said that as per PC-I, the project its cost is Rs 486 billion. The World Bank has approved financing of Stage-I of Dassu Hydropower project, he added.