While, the plundering of national wealth by unscrupulous elements in the past can be attributed to the present day economic disaster, the inefficiency or inadequacy of
"tax imposing" as well as "tax collecting" machinery was equally responsible for this sorry state. Invariably, majority of our "economic wizards", tend to adopt short cuts by concentrating on the "existing" tax base rather than exploring the new areas, or broadening the base. As a result, for last 50 years, those who started paying taxes are being burdened more, while, those who, for some reasons, could not be registered as tax payers, continued to enjoy "Tax Free" wealth. An exercise to broaden the tax base, by "netting" the new taxpayers, was carried out by the present government soon after take over. However, it did not bring out the desired results, primarily due to the stiff resistance by the "anti Tax mafia" and reluctance of taxmen to break away from "status qou". Basing on the so-called survey and new registration carried out by the incompetent "old rusted machinery" garbed in new outfit, the tax collectors painted a rosy picture by juggling with figures about receivables during the
fiscal year. Unfortunately the target fixed for revenue collection had to be cut down. The final revenue collection for this year, though reduced than the initial one,
may not be achieved, as, in the first place, it was not based on facts.
A very oft-narrated anecdote well explains the apathy of our government machinery, particularly, where revenue generation or collection, for nation is concerned. The story goes like this. Once upon a time, in some city, a "guard" was posted on main gate of some government building to check entry. The guard, made himself comfortable on a chair placed next to the entrance. People were walking in and out of the building, without asking the guard or the guard stopping or checking them. This practice continued for hours. A man, who considered himself as literate, disciplined and patriotic, was watching this practice for sometimes and had been feeling sorry for the guard. He thought that the people were not paying due respect to the "poor man", thus deliberately trying to undermine guard's authority. Over-whelmed by the nationalistic feeling, he walked up to the guard and respectfully asked him "Sir, can I get in?" "No" came a firm reply! The man surprised and shocked looked at the guard and sheepishly asked, "Why?...... I have a work in there. More over, I have been watching you for a long time; you never stopped a single individual from entering. Why me?" The guard looked at the man, gave a little twist to his moustaches, and said calmly. "They never asked me for permission!"
This, in nutshell, explains the taxation and tax collection system, in this country of Pures! Those, who are paying, continue to pay, and those who did not pay, "need not pay", as they did not ask the guard in the first place and guard had never been keen to know who did not ask! There can not be a better time or need than now to have new sources of revenue generation, without levying extra taxes or spending from treasury. It might sound odd or even absurd, but it is a fact that the nation can get billions of rupees without incurring any additional expenses. It is like money lying on table just to be collected. However, some one from the government has to take the initiative. As said earlier, there are many new areas, which need exploring. One of the areas, so far unexplored, having tremendous potentials for revenue generations, without spending a single extra rupee, falls within the Intellectual Property Right (IPR) domain. The Home video industry tops it all. Ever since the introduction of VCRs in Pakistan, the video films dealers are doing their roaring business running into trillions of rupees annually, almost like a "Tax free" Bonanza. Even if the existing laws governing the video films, like Copyright or Motion Pictures Ordinance, were considered seriously the nation would have made trillions. Unfortunately, no one thought of it and those at helm of affairs, let this illegal business flourish on one pretext or the other, thus "innocently" causing phenomenal losses to the nation.
Unfortunately most of our prevailing systems are either influenced by the colonial past or the dictatorial eras. May it be a "quota system" or "discretionary powers", all negate the basic democratic principles and human rights. The worst thing is to frame strong laws and then provide a provision of discretion! This option; a characteristics of monarchs, kings or dictators, can not go along any democratic society and invariably give rise to corruption. This is what has happened to this society! Too many discretionary powers to almost every one, who matters, have resulted in phenomenal corruption. There are many examples, which can be quoted here. However, since the area of revenue generation has been selected as IPR, therefore the discussion would be restricted to it.
The existing Copyright law of Pakistan is reasonably strong. An offence under this law is a
cognizable and non bail able. It carries punishment upon conviction, of up to Rs 100000.00 (Rs 200000.00 on second conviction) or 3 years RI or both. However, while the upper limit of fine or RI has been defined, the minimum limit is left to the discretion of magistrate. Similarly, Pakistan Motion Pictures Law, dealing with censorship etc. also carries the same kind of punishment and discretion. More over, this law also suffers from another lacuna. No action can be taken against any one selling, renting or exhibiting an uncensored film, unless the same was being exhibited in a "place licensed for exhibition" (Section 8(5) of MPO 1979). In light of this and also as per the stand of Central Censor Board of Pakistan, no action under censorship code, can be taken against thousands of video and laser film outlets keeping uncensored films, thus giving free hand to all for promoting violence and vulgarity. Additionally, both laws, being old, lack provisions to deal with fast changing scenarios in the field of audio-visual as well as printed works. Fortunately, despite all these weaknesses, these laws are strong enough to be implemented with right force and intentions. Sadly, it is not being enforced and the copyright infringement or piracy in all shapes is being done with complete immunity. This illegal business has flourished, (and flourishing) by leaps and bounds. It is so tragic that despite President Musharraf's declared resolve during his 7 point policy speech, for revival of economy, in which he assured the IPR owners of protection to their intellectual property no action has been take or even given a serious thought to control this broad daylight robbing of the national resources. The piracy is rampant and so is pornography and obscenity, because the laws have never been enforced seriously and relegated to the last priority, by enforcers. The pirates are filling their coffers with ill-gotten money and the administration seems to feel helpless before pirates or may be enjoying with them!!! Ironically, no one seems to
realize that the irreparable damages being done by uncensored and pirated films, to the society, particularly youth, need immediate attention from all quarters. This is a major cause of corruption and moral deterioration of the young generation. The video pirates dealing in uncensored, obscene and vulgar films are not only criminals but also sinners, deserving the worst punishment. They are the parasites, eating up the national money and destroying socio-cultural values. Even in the "first world" countries, a serious thought is being given for putting restrictions on free access to violent films or video games, particularly by the youth. Studies show that increased trend of violence among young people is due to the films and video games based on violence. The latest being worst massacre in decades in Germany and Bosnia by school going youths.
It is so sad that in this land of Pures and Islamic society, while a hand of hungry "bread thief" could be chopped off but intellectual property thief remains above board! Has any one thought as to what is the fault of those intellects, scientists, poets, writers, and artists of this country called Islamic Republic of Pakistan, who spend their lives and put in every thing they have, to "build" their own intellectual property, but pirates loot them. Can some one think about those great minds of this country that created or built or invented great works, but faded away in oblivion without getting a single benefit from their own intellectual property, due to IPR thieves. Ironically, even some of the so called educated people of this society of Pures,
favor piracy on various pretexts, like "sharing the global wealth for humanity" or for transfer of "latest technology for developing nation" or "exercising the right to choose as human" etc. Their reasons sound innocent and genuine to a common man! However, there is a vast difference between sharing, owning, stealing or snatching. The deprivation, do not give a right to steal or rob others. If that be the case, then car snatching by "car less" or land grabbing by "land less" or even power snatching by "power less" should neither be a crime nor sin. Luckily, this is not the way it happens in any of the
civilized societies or religions.
There are always so many right ways of doing right things. A free entrepreneurship does not mean usurping others' rights. The video pirates are doing this illegal business on pretext of "honoring peoples' right to choose a kind of entertainment they like"! Book pirates have a reason for piracy to "promote cheap education for poor lot"!! The software pirates are "serving the nation by providing cheap means to transfer latest technology for starved local scientists"!!! Like wise so many other types of piracy is being done for various reasons. This blatant law violation is going on for ages. One might tend to ignore this if the nation gets some sort of benefit out of it. No. Nothing good is for nation. They are neither doing any service to IPR owners, nor nation or humanity. They are doing every thing for themselves. Absence of any strong action by the government is surprising. Or may be, no action is being taken because some one in the government, thinks that the pirates have a genuine reasons for piracy. If that is so, the best would be to enact another law, to
legitimize this so far illegal business. Let there be no taxes or fee of any kind for any one. Let there be no censor of films. Let there be no tax or duty on paper or magnetic tapes or films or software etc. Let there be no discrimination. Either all in the business be paying taxes or non should pay! Well it sure is difficult but not impossible. Impediments should not deter the government to make right decisions in the best interest of the nation. What ever may be the case, piracy in any shape, would never be acceptable to any dignified nation including Pakistan.
The pirates, particularly the video pirates, have flooded almost each household with obscene, vulgar and uncensored films. They are, making mockery of law of land, causing losses of billions of rupees to nation, in shape of "lost taxes", promoting corruption, immorality and sexual violence among youth by flooding the market with cheap, vulgar, pornographic and uncensored films, promoting a society rampant with smuggling, tax evasion and illegitimate business, deterring and discouraging legal business, deterring and discouraging foreign investments, projecting Pakistan as nation of pirates among the global community, building personal empires on the debris of national economy, values and pride. Yet they are considered "respectable businessmen". The "Pirate Mafia" is laughing. They seem to be above the law and openly defying it. It is very difficult to comprehend that the administration feels helpless against them! It is also not understood as to why action against these criminals is being relegated to last on the pretext of more "important" matters!! In the present scenario, what could be more important for Pakistan to have more sources of revenue generations? What could be more important for Pakistan than to have corruption free and legitimate business flourishing? What could be more important for Pakistan to have morally strong, healthy and disciplined youth? What could be more important for Pakistan than be called a nation of
honorable people? Evading national taxes, robbing some one of his life long earning of Intellectual Property through piracy and giving the owner a heart attack, is no different than car snatching on gun point or murder or "plundering the banks"!!!
A few years back some local entrepreneurs invested huge amounts in Home Video Industry and tried to
legitimize so far, unaccounted and thriving illegitimate business. They followed the law of land, paid all taxes and for the first time in the history of Pakistan, started releasing legal video films, under license, after getting these censored by Central Board of Censorship in Pakistan. The nations' share in one such legally released video print is about Rs 100.00 (in shape of various taxes like, Sales Tax, Duties and Censorship fee), while the pirates pay nothing and pocket every thing! There are approximately 40000 video film outlets in the country, (with one of the biggest video pirate market at Rainbow Centre Karachi, followed by Rafi/Zaitoon Plaza, Lahore and Imperial Market Rawalpindi, having trillions of rupees as annual "Tax free" turn over). So, modestly speaking, even if each shop purchases one legal print, (minimum 30 video titles are being released per month at present) the nation can get revenues to the tune of Rs 120000000.00 per month (triple of this amount, so far going to the pirates)! This example is based on minimum sale, while maximum sale can yield billions and even trillions. The local legitimate businessmen once again, for the first time in the history of video films in Pakistan, paid as taxes in millions to the nation (accounting for 65 % of total censorship fee) single handedly in addition to a substantial amount of royalties to the owners of copyright for the films released by them. Ironically, the governments, this or previous, had been keen in getting the taxes, but not very keen to ensure writ of law. As a result the poor patriotic entrepreneurs who were banking on law of land, and various international treaties, had been many times bankrupt! Their fault? They asked the "guard"! Had they entered the "building" without asking "guard", they would had been playing in money, like other 40000 video outlets in the country. The worst part of this nation's tragedy is, making the laws and then using for personal gains only.
There is no denying fact that every patriotic Pakistani would love to live with dignity,
honor and respect by throwing away the yolk of foreign debt. It is also a fact that every Pakistani shall like to protect and uphold own socio-cultural values with all strength, by shielding against alien cultural invasion. No one in sanity, would like to beg or steal, if own resources could meet the basic needs. Fortunately, a little effort put in by the government, in controlling piracy can generate much desired revenues for debt retirement and, more importantly, protect the future generation from becoming the victim of immorality and corruption. Incidentally, a unique set-up in the country, called Royal IPR Security Services (RIPRSS) has done a tremendous job by making general public and administration aware of the importance of copyright protection. A few other affected
organizations, both national as well as multinational business houses have join hands to eliminate the social evil of piracy from the society. Despite a very
luke warm approach by the law enforcers, the ceaseless efforts and financial support by these set ups, thousands anti piracy criminal cases have been registered within last few years. This is just a very small fraction of what should have been done, had there been complete government support for such enforcement. As per available statistic, it is interesting to note that, about, Rs 30000.00 per one criminal case is spent in terms of man hour wages of police force, transportation, legal proceedings and IPR owners' staff etc.(Incidentally the nations' share of expenses is about 10% only). At end of the day, although all accused are convicted yet, due to no mandatory minimum punishment (left to discretion of presiding magistrate) accused is convicted for Rs 100.00 as fine (even less that the price of one pirate video cassette or book) and let off to do piracy with renewed
vigor! Under such scenario, piracy shall continue to flourish, the porno dealers shall continue to destroy moral
fibers of our youth, and IPR owner as well as exchequer shall always remain at loss!!! Even if 50 % of maximum fine mentioned in the law, is imposed, it would not only act as a real deterrent but also ensure collection of additional revenues for the nation, amounting to millions for pending court cases only. With on going anti piracy operations the number of cases would continue, hence more revenue to the government.
It may be worth mentioning here that Pakistan is a signatory to Berne Convention, International Copyright Order, TRIPPs and WTO etc. Pakistan, like any respectable nation, is
honor bound to abide by the rules of the game. In fact, with the tremendous amount of talents in this country, time is not far when Pak nation would be more concerned about protection of own IPR around the globe, rather than fearing violation of foreign IPR in own country. So to claim own IPR protection tomorrow, Pakistan has to protect others' IPR today. Every Pakistani would like to think on these lines, while keeping up pace with fast changing global priorities. The pirates must not be permitted to continue with their illegal "tax free" bonanza at the cost of legitimate business and national interest. Government must take immediate steps to arrest the situation and harness this tremendous source of revenue generation.
It, definitely, is not some thing beyond control. To meet this goal following is suggested: -
1. Mandatory censorship for all commercial films in any shape like theatrical, video, laser, VCD or DVD, meant for sale, rent or exhibition for commercial purpose, irrespective of its origin.
2. The violator to get mandatory fine of Rs 50000.00 and 6 months imprisonment per conviction. So any one dealing with films for commercial purpose shall either get the films censored or is prepared for execution.
3. Establishment of special police team for enforcement of copyright and Motion Picture laws, from within the existing police force. These teams at each Divisional level, under direct command of Inspector Generals of Police/ Chief Commissioner ICT, shall definitely help contain this menace through strict enforcement.
4. Minor amendments to Copyright and Motion Pictures Law, to include mandatory minimum punishment and to bring these laws in conformity with fast changing times.
As a result the nation is going to gain:-
To begin with, more than Rs 5 billions annually from video can be generated without incurring any extra cost.
Elimination (or near elimination) of social evil, like pornography.
Documentation of a huge segment of business, so far undocumented, for GST.
Enhancement of Pak prestige among global community, with regards to Intellectual Property Right protection, according to WTO,TRIPPS etc, thus attracting more foreign investments.
Attracting more foreign investments.
Encouraging the legitimate business
(PUBLISHED IN NATIONAL "DAILIES" & PERIODICALS)