On different pages

March 16,2019

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he Punjab government and the PTI government in the centre seem to be finding it difficult to move on to the same page. Only weeks after the Punjab minister for information was dismissed for his rabidly anti-Hindu speech which was taken note of by Prime Minister Imran Khan, the PM has now directed the Punjab government to take back its summary under which the salaries and perks of MPAs, ministers and the chief minister in Punjab were sharply raised. The bill had been passed in the Punjab Assembly within just 24 hours of being presented. Under it, the salary for MPAs would increase from Rs83,000 a month to Rs200,000; the chief minister’s basic salary would go up from Rs18,000 to Rs80,000 and his daily allowance from Rs1,000 to Rs4,000. The bill also granted the CM a house for life along with other perks and privileges for MPAs and ministers. Such legislation is the norm in our country, with assembly members repeatedly improving their own remuneration. Currently, MPAs in the Balochistan Assembly draw higher pays than those in the National Assembly. This again is an anomaly which needs to be rationalised. The new bill moved in Punjab would have taken Punjab Assembly salaries higher than those in the centre.

But this is not the main point. While members of the Punjab government have been arguing that the bill had been jointly proposed 22 days ago by members of several parties, the fact is that the country is facing an economic squeeze. With people facing a crippling price hike, this is perhaps not the best time for MPAs to push up their own salaries. The argument that a pay hike would encourage persons from the middle class to move into politics seems rather irrelevant given that at the present time, ordinary citizens struggle to buy basic food items or meet the costs of daily living.

There is also an apparent lack of harmony between thinking at the federal level and in Punjab. While Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had initially backed the Punjab government, he has in a familiar U-turn now criticised the move and called it a sham exercise. Other federal ministers have been equally severe in their remarks about the Punjab government’s decision. There is also the constitutional question of whether the centre can control a provincial government. But since the PTI forms both governments, we would assume party policy holds sway over decisions made, especially when they seem to be intended for the benefit of a few rather than the many whose fortunes the PTI has promised to change. There is an obvious need for the PTI to ensure that all its members are on board when it comes to policy and that there is no uncomfortable discord which repeatedly upsets the perception of people or the working of governments.


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