Mickey, where’s the sick bag? by Masood hasan

You know there is more refuse in cricket than Mahmood Booti, the now infamous Lahore garbage dumping ground. This polluted hellhole is likely to feature in the Guinness Book of Records, seeing how peachy keen the Punjab government is on claiming all kinds of ‘high achievements.’

The news that as many as 21 Pakistani cricketers are tax defaulters of one kind or another shocks no one here. After all when the time has come they have always been found wanting. A cricketing nation that can only think of 1954 and 1992 when we beat England and won a world cup is in dire need of heroes, but it has tax evaders instead.

We have all along known that wearing white flannels and the country blazer does not quite transform your character. If you were a lout, chances are you will remain so. Why should anyone bother anymore with principled living and abiding by the laws? It is passé, at best and strictly to be avoided by the next generation of Pakistanis.

Test cricketers, on whose integrity this cricket-crazy country might commit their life savings to, would only lose their last penny. Time and again our great heroes have been caught on the wrong foot. Now Lord have mercy on our demented souls, even Salman Butt can look you in the eye and say he was done in by the corrupt and biased British legal system. Some local TV channels find nothing wrong in calling on him to educate us on the game. Shame on Butt (if there is still room to pile some more). What material are you people made of? Refuse from Mahmood Booti?

About a little over a month back, came the news from Islamabad that at least 21 national cricketers had, according to the FBR’s records and work of their intelligence directorate, have either not paid taxes, concealed their incomes from multiple sources and filed no wealth tax ever. In fact they probably don’t even know what wealth tax is. On one level this is par for the course in Pakistan where paying your taxes is tantamount to breaking the law. No Pakistani with an iota of self-respect ever pays taxes, which earns this country another dubious record and points the way to younger generations to fashion their lives according to these malpractices.

It is not difficult for them because all around they can see how their parents, uncles and aunts and other relatives and family friends behave when it comes to telling the state what each one of them earned and what taxes they paid on these earnings.

In this world, paying taxes would amount to some kind of blasphemy and when role models behave like cads breaking the country’s laws, the youngsters can only aspire to emulate them when their time comes. But meanwhile to return to the match, here is the scorecard.

The 21 cricketers neither paid any taxes nor did they avoid faking their earnings made under different heads. There are countless sources of income for test cricketers of whatever seniority they might be. The rule seems to be to pay less and less if you earn more and more. Cricketers earn huge sums of money from their test, ODIs and T20 matches. The top ones are under lucrative contracts with the PCB. Then they ‘work’ for various departments, financial institutions and earn money and perks from them too. This is repeated for those who play for overseas clubs and teams.

Then there are the tours and special appearances. There are loads of modelling and brand ambassadorships, all yielding a high level of crisp notes. Prize money and winning awards also means more money.

Now the catch is that hardly anyone ever considers paying a paisa of what they have earned as tax. In fact many would seem never to have heard of that term. In some cases the PCB for example deducts tax at source but cricketers doing so are still legally bound to file tax returns on all their income. Of course they don’t.

The FBR findings reveal that at least six cricketers don’t even figure on the country’s tax roll. Rana Naveed ul Hassan, who I believe now sports a hair transplant (what about some soul transplanting?) has had various stints with the Pakistan team. He is a stealth bomber. He does not feature on the national tax grid. Neither does Wahab Riaz.

Then we have Asad Shafiq, Tanvir Ahmed, Yasir Arafat (change your name Yasir. You should be Tax Free Arafat) and Kamran Akmal. Akmal is unable to catch a cricket ball but can pluck millions from thin air. All that is needed is to show him how – once. He will sniff a deal where he can make some buckaroos and he’s your man. The bigger the game, the bigger the sell out.

Because these six players have never paid taxes, they do not have NTN numbers. Even in a country like ours where the law is treated with contempt and disdain, this means that these gents – heroes of Pakistan, cannot legally buy or sell any real estate or even a new or used car. As for their earnings, the PCB and otherwise, no one has a clue because these chaps are like the will o’ the wisp.

Test cricketers like Umar Gul, Sohail Tanveer, Umar Akmal and Saeed Ajmal have filed no returns for 2010-2011. Many have been in the national side for years, played dozens of matches, yet all have followed their code of cheating the country. What kind of role models are these?

There are stories and stories about the legendary properties of cricketers, purchased under most dubious conditions but no one has actually done serious work on this.

A country which runs on well-greased rails of corruption will not find anything amiss with this unsavoury lot. From top to bottom we are corrupt to the bone – all without exception. Our national heroes in case you had forgotten. Give me Jabba the Hut any time. Mickey, where’s the sick bag?

The writer is a Lahore-based columnist. Email: masoodhasan66@gmail.com


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