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Imran swings into action: Don’t sign privileges, pay rise bill

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday directed the Punjab government to revert the summary seeking raise in the salaries of MPAs, ministers and chief minister.

Details suggested that the premier had barred the Punjab governor from signing the summary. He had also directed the Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar to recall the bill seeking raise in the MPAs, ministers and chief minister’s salaries and perks.

PM Khan ordered to review the decision granting lifetime incentives to the chief ministers while restricting it to a period of three months. The premier termed the decision of providing residence to the chief minister for lifetime ‘incorrect’. Following the directions, it was decided to exclude the clause pertaining to the provision of incentives to chief minister. The clause will be ruled out by legal means through an amendment. The provincial government also admitted that the clause was irrelevant and agreed to eliminate it.

Earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed dismay over the increase in salaries and perks of members of Punjab provincial assembly, ministers and Chief Minister Usman Buzdar. He took to twitter to express his views and stated, "I am extremely disappointed at decision of Punjab Assembly to raise pays and privileges of MPAs, ministers and especially the CM. Once prosperity returns to Pakistan such a move could be justified, but now, when we do not have resources to provide basic amenities to all our people, this is untenable."

The Punjab Assembly on Wednesday approved a private bill seeking raise in the salaries and privileges of Members of Provincial Assembly (MPAs) within just 24 hours. The bill was presented in the House after receiving consent from the standing committee. Following the legislation, MPA’s salary and incentives have been increased from Rs83,000 to Rs200,000 a month whereas the Punjab chief minister will draw RS350,000 a month. The basic salary has been raised from Rs18,000 to Rs80,000 a month, daily allowance from Rs1,000 to Rs4,000 a month and house rent from Rs29,000 to Rs50,000 a month.

Besides this, the bill fixed utility allowance from Rs6,000 to Rs20,000 a month and hospitality allowance from Rs10,000 to Rs20,000 a month. The salaries of the members of the Punjab Assembly and ministers raised by the provincial assembly exceed the pays of their counterparts in all the provinces and at the federal level. The unanimously-passed legislation was tabled by treasury’s Ghazanfar Abbas Cheena on Tuesday and approval was accorded on the following day amid thunder of applause.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry also criticised the provincial government and the chief minister for the increase in salaries. Calling it a ‘sham exercise’, the information minister further said that the provincial government is in “the dark about the PM and federal government’s austerity policies.”

Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari referred to the Punjab Assembly’s move as “shameful behaviour in these financially critical times.” Punjab legislature directly contravenes PTI government policy of austerity and cost cutting; the minister went on to add in a tweet.

Prime Minister had predicted that Buzdar would be the best chief minister. There was no immediate word from the Punjab government with regards to the Prime Minister’s disappointment the increases in perks and privileges.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Thursday took a U-turn and retracted his support for the Punjab Assembly's decision to increase the salaries and perks of MPAs, ministers and the provincial chief minister.

However, earlier in the day, the minister had supported the Punjab Assembly's decision and remarked, “I feel the salaries of MPAs were very low. The monthly pay was Rs80,000 which was raised to Rs150,000.”

He went on to contend, “If we do not take these steps then those belonging to the middle class will not contest the elections. If you say that MPAs and MNAs should not be given salaries then you will driving the middle class out of politics.”

But the prime minister’s tweet compelled him to retract on his earlier statement, as opposition parties and the social media poured scorn on the Punjab government for this unexpected legislation at a time when, the country faces acute financial crunch and the biggest province Punjab is facing economic constraints.

The ruling PTI’s Information Secretary Omar Sarfraz Cheema also chipped in to chide the Punjab Assembly legislation and said that the prime minister’s statement had made the situation crystal clear, who from day one had been pushing for strict observance of austerity.

He emphasised that following the footsteps of the prime minister, the legislators should also observe austerity for the sake of the nation, as prime minister wanted that each penny was spent judicially on the welfare of masses.

Prime Minister Imran Khan tweet of displeasure on the passage of the bill from Punjab Assembly for the increase in salaries of the Punjab chief minister and his cabinet members and Members Punjab Assembly gave the new directions to ongoing debate on the social media.

Those who hold the positions in the government were earlier justified the increase in salaries of the Punjab chief minister and his cabinet members and Members Punjab Assembly but after the displeasure tweet of prime minster took a U-turns and started criticism on the social media that the increase negates the philosophy of savings of the prime minister.

The Punjab Assembly has approved the Amendment in Punjab Public Representation, 2019 and that private members bill was introduced on behalf of the PTI, PML-N and PPP’s members.

The Punjab Assembly on Thursday through press release negates the impression that the bill was approved in haste. According to Punjab Assembly announcement, the Punjab Public Representation, 2019 was approved through the legislative process in 2-days.

According to details, 22 days ago five members of Punjab Assembly that include two members of the PML-N, one from PPP and two from PTI submitted the bill in Punjab Assembly Secretariat and it was introduced in the Punjab Assembly on private members days and subsequently referred to the concerned Standing Committee on Law of the Punjab Assembly.

The standing committee of Punjab Assembly discussed this bill in detail and it also compares it with the salary structure of the members of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, chief minister KPK, provincial ministers, Speaker and Deputy KPK and with the committee recommendations it was referred to the Punjab Assembly on March 13, 2019 that was subsequently passed by the Punjab Assembly.

The current Punjab Assembly so far approved 13 bills related to Public interest. It was necessary to know which provincial assembly member has a highest salary and when compere the salaries of the members of the Punjab Assembly with other provincial assembly be analysed then the difference of salary structure could be observed.

If the salary and allowances of members of the Balochistan Assembly compare with the member of the National Assembly then member of National Assembly gets a less salary as compare with the member of the Balochistan Assembly. A member of National Assembly received a salary of Rs173,000 besides other perks and privileges.

The member of Balochistan Assembly gets highest salary, who received salary and allowances of Rs440,000 and other perks and privileges, while Punjab’s Members of Provincial Assembly were on second, who received salary now had increased from Rs83,000 to 195,000, KPK Assembly on third where a member received a salary of Rs153,800 per month and Sindh Assembly member is on last number as they received salary of Rs145,000.

Balochistan’s chief minister was also on top of list of receiving the monthly salary who gets Rs600,000, chief minister Punjab Rs4,25,000, chief minister KPK 290,000 and chief minister Sindh was drawing a salary of Rs245,000 per month.

Speaker National Assembly was getting a salary of Rs216,000 per month, Speaker Balochistan Assembly Rs618,000, Speaker Punjab Assembly Rs260,000, Speaker Sindh Assembly Rs220,000 and Speaker KPK Assembly Rs133,000.

According to sources, the salary of prime minister is 196,000 while the cabinet ministers were getting a salary around Rs250,000 while the salary of the president of Pakistan was over Rs700,000.

The basic salary of the prime minister is Rs107,280 while with the different allowances the total salary comes over Rs201,574 and the tax of Rs4590 also deducted from the salary of the prime minister. But interestingly the federal ministers were drawing the salary more than from prime minister as per information the ministers were drawing a salary around Rs250,0000.

The salary of Senate chairman was 116,000, Deputy chairman Senate was about Rs106,000 while the senator was getting a salary of Rs76,000. Though the Punjab Assembly has passed the bill in raise of salaries yet the Governor Punjab did not sign the bill.

According to constitutional experts, the Article of 116 of the Constitution is very clear in this regard as Clause 1 of the Article 116 of the Constitution stated that, “When a bill is presented to the governor for assent, the governor shall within 10 days and as a case of bill other than money bill, return to the provincial assembly with a message requesting that the bill, or any specified provision thereof, be reconsidered that any amendment specified in the message be considered.”

According to constitutional experts, the governor of the province did not have any powers to send back the money bill to provincial assembly but have a power to send back any other bill except finance bill.

According to reports, the prime minister has directed the Punjab chief minster to take back the decision of increase in salaries. The constitutional experts were of the opinion that there were only ways to revoke the bill as the bill not to send to governor for assent and second that the government should present any bill to reverse the approved bill.

The Constitution is silent on the fate of the bill if the governor did not sign on the finance bill in 10 days. As per parliamentary traditions, the National Assembly has approved the Amendment in Finance Bill on March 6 and the president signed on March 9, which was now enforced as an Act of the Parliament.

With regard to powers of the prime minister, the constitutional experts of the opinion that the prime minister could not interfere in the provincial government affairs but being the head of the political party, the prime minister could direct his provincial parliamentary party either to approve the bill or reverse the approved bill.

Prime minister expressed its disappointment on the decision of increase in salaries of the Members of Punjab Assembly and tweeted that he was extremely disappointed by decision of Punjab Assembly to raise pays and privileges of MPAs, ministers and especially CM," the prime minister tweeted.

"Once prosperity returns to Pakistan such a move could be justified, but now, when we do not have resources to provide basic amenities to all our people, this is untenable," tweeted.

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