Azad Jammu Kashmir Constitutional amendment ushers in new era of progress and development

Mirpur | By Altaf Hamid Rao
After the 13th amendment in the Interim Constitution Act 1974 of Azad Jammu Kashmir, a record amount of sixteen billion rupees were collected in the fiscal year 2018-2019 by the Inland Revenue Department of Azad Jammu Kashmir.

The positive outcomes of empowering the elected government of AJK could immediately be witnessed through the successful achievement of the record revenue target set by the Inland Revenue Department of the Azad Jammu & Kashmir Government for the just-ending fiscal year of 2018-19 against the stipulated target.
The tax collection was previously a subject under the Kashmir Council. It collected fourteen billion rupees in the last fiscal year out of which the AJK Government received merely ten billion rupees.  The rest of the funds were spent at/by the Kashmir Council.

Prior to the 13th constitutional amendment, the income tax was shared between AJK Government and the Kashmir Council at 80:20 ratio respectively. Now, due to a single consolidated fund, the entire revenue collected in the fiscal year depends upon the jurisdiction of the AJK Government and the Kashmir Council has no say in it.
The dividends of the financial autonomy have started to surface and this scenario could be analyzed by considering the fact that AJK Government had not demanded any advance amount (for both development and non-development expenditures) from the Government of Pakistan in the new fiscal year of 2019-20 for Azad Jammu Kashmir”.

Though AJK will receive its due share from the central exchequer for its development expenditures as every other entity under Pakistan does but the dependence on Islamabad to run the daily affairs has got minimized after this amendment.

The deficit free budget for the year 2019-2020 is largely attributed to this amendment that has empowered AJK in various aspects of its local governance.

 Long before the 13th amendment, the civil society and the political parties of AJK had started the discourse about gaining autonomy for the region which finally came true when the amendment was passed with majority from the state legislature.

Justice Azam Khan- of Azad Jammu & Kashmir states: The 13th Amendment has opened new avenues for fiscal empowerment of the AJK Government. Underling the fruits of the 13th constitutional amendment, President Mirpur Chamber of Commerce & Industry AJK, Sohail Shujah Mujahid says that it has saved a big chunk  from the total volume of the annual tax money of the people of Azad Jammu & Kashmir.

This money, he alleged, was previously being misused mercilessly through various corrupt means including the ghost development projects / schemes designed by the AJK Council before the amendment.

Sohail Shujah Mujahid, Joint President of Jammu & Kashmir Joint Chamber of Commerce & Industryobserved that after the constitutional amendment; AJK seems to be moving towards self-reliance for the first time in its administrative history.

A Kashmiri business community leader said that there are still more avenues to expand the benefits of the recently-made 13th Amendment in Act-1974 of the Interim Constitution of Azad Jammu Kashmir, for the long-due empowerment of Azad Government of the State of Jammu & Kashmir and the AJK Legislative Assembly.

NOTE: The views expressed in this article are of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of CPDR.

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