Islamabad: President Asif Ali Zardari did not file tax returns for 2011 and he was in "good company as 34 out of 55 Cabinet ministers paid nothing either", said a Pakistani daily.
An editorial in the News International described as a "bold first step" a statement from a top Federal Board of Revenue official that said some 260 parliamentarians, 200 MNAs (members of National Assembly) and 60 senators will be sent tax notices.
"His statement comes as the enterprising initiative taken by young journalists in Islamabad through the Centre for Investigating Reporting (CIRP), released its first report revealing that some 300 MPs did not file any tax return and named almost all the big politicians including the President, ex-prime minister and many of his Cabinet members," it said.
"More than 60 percent of the Cabinet and two-thirds of the federal lawmakers paid not a rupee in taxes in the last year. The President did not file tax returns for 2011. He was in good company as 34 out of 55 Cabinet ministers paid nothing either, including that pillar of the state Rehman Malik," the daily added.
The editorial pointed out that those who did make the effort and paid some tax coughed up "almost derisory amounts".
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf managed Rs 142,536, while Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar paid Rs 69,619 - "somewhat less than what it would cost to purchase one of her favoured brands of designer handbags".
"This is shameful in a country where the head of the thief catchers says that Rs 7 billion are gobbled up in corruption every single day, a statement that sent the Cabinet in a fury on Wednesday," the daily said.
It observed that persuading the public to pay taxes might be a little easier if those at the top of the pile paid theirs.
"Can we hope now that the society and its watchdogs, emboldened by an independent judiciary and a vibrant media, are waking up to play their role to set things right,” the editorial asked.