ISLAMABAD, April 13: Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has expressed disapproval of the unprecedented security protocol and other perks given to some heavyweights of the previous governments both at the centre and in the provinces.
The chief justice’s action on Saturday was prompted by a note moved by the registrar of the apex court highlighting the sanction of security cover and other privileges to a number of former prime ministers, former interior minister Rehman Malik, chief ministers as well as the speaker and deputy speaker of the Sindh Assembly.
The chief justice ordered Attorney General Irfan Qadir, the Sindh advocate general and the police chief to submit their replies on Tuesday. The interior and law secretaries were also asked to explain which law allowed the former prime minister to sanction life-time benefits to his own self as well as to other former premiers from public exchequer.
Former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, Mr Malik and the ex-chief minister of Sindh, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, were asked to appear in person in the court or depute their counsel for the hearing on Tuesday.
The registrar said in his note that hours before the tenure of parliament came to an end, the interior ministry issued a notification on March 14, declaring unlimited perks and privileges for Mr Malik and his predecessors.
The Sindh Assembly had on March 14, the last day of its term, passed two private bills moved by PPP legislators Ghulam Mujadid Isran and Dr Sikander Mandhro to grant lifetime monetary and other benefits to the outgoing chief minister and the speaker and deputy speaker.
The note said the benefits and privileges sanctioned to former prime ministers, chief ministers, ministers, speakers, deputy speakers and members of the provincial assembly were unheard of.
The sanction was enacted at a peculiar time — a day or two before the cabinets and assemblies saw off their terms. “It is questionable as to whether this kind of self-serving legislation is covered under the law/constitution,” it said, adding that the benefits and privileges bestowed would be a huge burden on the exchequer.
OVERBURDENED AGENCIES: The security protocol will further deplete the already overburdened security agencies, the court feared.
The measures appeared to violate articles 4, 9, 24 and 25 of the constitution, the note said.
The chief justice wondered how a contingent of 450 personnel would be taken from Islamabad police, of which 150 would be deployed for Mr Ashraf (the former premier) and an equal number for Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani.
A special squad of 15 Rangers and 15 Frontier Constabulary personnel will be provided during inter-city movement to five former prime ministers — Mr Ashraf, Mr Gilani, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Zafarullah Khan Jamali.
A batch of five DSPs of Islamabad and a DIG was called to the Prime Minister House on March 15 for selection of a DSP to head the force.
A contingent of 450 police personnel consisting of ex-soldiers inducted into the Islamabad police by the former government on a three-year contract will be spared for this purpose and the vacuum created by their departure will be filled after fresh recruitment.
According to the plan, protocol coverage will also be provided by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to the ministers, their spouses and children at all airports in the country.
Under the Sindh Assembly’s private bills a person who served as chief minister, speaker or deputy speaker for not less than four years, on the expiry of his term, would be entitled to 70 per cent of salary and allowances per month, a private secretary of grade 17, an assistant, a driver, a cook, a gardener, a sanitary worker, lifetime police security and landline and mobile phone facilities with a credit of Rs10,000 per month.
The assembly also passed the Sindh Provincial Assembly (Members) Privileges (Amendment) Law, 2013, according to which the provincial lawmakers were brought at par with the senators and MNAs as far as the perks after their tenure were concerned.
“The citizens of Pakistan, who are suffering from different kinds of miseries, deprivation, lack of education, lack of health facilities, lack of drinking water and lack of normal facilities of life cannot share such financial burden of the former prime ministers, interior minister, chief ministers, speakers, deputy speakers except if the law so permits or the concerned authorities decide to provide them protection against any threat to their lives in peculiar circumstances,” the chief justice said in his order.
The interior and law secretaries were asked to place on record copies of the orders and notifications issued by the prime minister. Similar orders were issued to the chief secretary, home secretary and law secretary of Sindh.
The auditor general and accountant general of Pakistan will calculate the approximate financial burden which the nation has to bear on such perks and privileges.