ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to grant seven years’ tax exemption to industrial and business establishments in Gwadar Special Economic Zone (GSEZ) despite opposition from the Central Board of Revenue (CBR) and the Ministry of Labour and Manpower, Daily Times learned on Wednesday.

This decision is likely to be endorsed by the federal cabinet which meets today (Thursday) with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in the chair. The cabinet is also likely to endorse trade agreements and extradition treaties with various countries.

The cabinet is likely to allow the Commerce Ministry to begin talks with Morocco, Malaysia and Indonesia on the Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs) and renew the same with China. The cabinet will also ratify extradition treaties with the UAE and China and start negotiations with Tunisia on a similar agreement.

The cabinet meeting may also decide to exempt Sri Lankan students from visa fees on a reciprocal basis.

According to a document made available to Daily Times, the Ministry of Ports and Shipping has recommended exempting GSEZ from the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act 1947 and the Protection of Economic Reforms1992 despite strong opposition by the Revenue Division.

The Ministry of Ports and Shipping, in its summary has claimed that the Finance Division has its concurrence to the proposal to exempt GSEZ from the two laws. However, CBR did not agree with the proposal, saying that no area in Pakistan could be exempted except under the Constitution of Pakistan as in the case of FATA/PATA.

The Ministry of Labour and Manpower is also opposing the decision on different grounds.

Sources said that it had also been decided to covert the Army Welfare Housing Scheme into Defence Housing Authority and to set up the Pakistan Council for Renewable Energy Technologies (PCRET).

The Defence Ministry submitted a summary in this regard to the cabinet some time ago, which was rejected on the grounds that other public sector stakeholders were not consulted