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March 14, 2019

Punjab raises salaries and perks of MPs, ministers

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March 14, 2019

LAHORE: The Punjab Assembly on Wednesday increased the salaries, perks and privileges of its members to more than double after making legislation in record haste, within 24 hours of tabling the bill concerned.

The unanimously-passed legislation was tabled as a private bill by treasury’s Ghazanfar Abbas Cheena on a private members day on Tuesday. Strangely, it was put before the house for vote count on a regular day when only the government business could be handled according to rules, thus the legislators committed violation of the parliamentary norms and rules in their haste to allow a huge share for themselves from the kitty of poor taxpayers.

The bill ended up as a unanimous bill since none of the members opposed it from both sides, except PPP’s parliamentary leader Hasan Murtaza. It was unanimously passed after a standing committee also gave its approval within a few minutes of discussion.

After this legislation, the Punjab chief minister will draw Rs 350,000 per month, while members will have over 200,000 per month, as their basic pay and allowances rose to more than double.

Earlier, the house passed the Pakistan Kidney and Liver Institute and Research Centre Bill 2019, after repealing the last year’s legislation that had made the PKLI a trust, in the absence of PML-N members who had walked out of the house after Speaker Ch Pervaiz Elahi had directed expungingthe comments of PML-N’s Khwaja Imran Nazir from the record and switching off his microphone. The member was opposing the legislation which repealed the PKLI status as a trust and instead made it a government institute. Other PML-N members supported his argument, but the speaker suggested to the government to defer the legislation and sit down together to reach some agreement.

Health Minister Dr Yasmeen Rashid opposed the suggestion to keep the PKLI as a trust. Law minster Raja Basharat supported her by saying that the PKLI would be running on provincial government’s funding, then why some private technocrat should be made its administrative head as it would loosen government control over it.

He said the PML-N government set up the PKLI entirely from government funds but handed it over to those who had not spent a single penny on it. He said the opposition had put two amendments to the bill. One, excluding chairman P&D from the institute and, two, Dr Saeed Akhtar should be made member of the board.

He said Dr Saeed Akhtar was not the only competent doctor in kidney transplant and the PKLI could work without him. He said the government is not ignoring Dr Saeed Akhtar and Dr Faisal Dar, but would take them along in the project.

The speaker asked both sides to sit together to resolve the dispute but Khwaja Imran Nazir opposed the move despite that the speaker had directed him to stop. He said the house should pay tributes to former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif for this landmark legislation since he was worried over the fact that patients had to go to India and other countries for liver transplant before the establishment of the PKLI. He recalled that while the PKLI was under construction, the then chief justice Saqib Nisar summoned the PML-N leadership several times that delayed other projects also. He also objected to the fact that the bill was presented for legislation without approval from the standing committee concerned.

The speaker asked him to sit down but he continued to speak and later walked out of the house, which prompted other PML-N members also to walk out. Later, the Law minster put the bill for vote and the house rejected the oppositon’s amendments with majority to pass the bill.

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