ISLAMABAD: While members of parliament have repeatedly asked for information about the salaries, pensions and post-retirement benefits enjoyed by top government functionaries, answers have seldom been forthcoming.
But the Lahore High Court chief justice’s decision to make public details of his salary and perks, coupled with disclosures regarding the judiciary, may revive lawmakers’ interest in the matter of perks and privileges given to members of parliament, judges and senior officers from civil and military bureaucracy.
LHC Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah’s recent disclosure of what he earns has generally been met with praise, and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan even took to Twitter to voice his appreciation, saying: “Welcome move by CJ LHC to make pay/perks public. Recognition that accountability begins at the top. Others must follow.”
Government has revealed benefits enjoyed by judges
During the last question hour in the Senate, the government also disclosed details of post-retirement benefits available to judges and members of parliament in response to questions asked by Pakistan Peoples Party’s Farhatullah Babar. Similar questions about the officers from civil and military bureaucracy, however, have not been answered.
Law Minister Zahid Hamid informed the house that a chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) and a judge of the Supreme Court were entitled to a minimum of 70 per cent of their salary as pension, plus 5pc of their salary for each year of service completed.
But no reply has been received to similar questions, separately asked by Mr Babar, about the details of pensions and post-retirement benefits available to civil officers in grade 21 and above, as well as those of and above the rank of major general in the army, navy and air force.
The written reply to the question about senior civil bureaucrats, placed before the Senate on March 17, merely stated that the Establishment Division had transmitted this question to the Ministry of Finance, which had not accepted the question thus far.
The question about the armed forces’ officers was also not answered by the defence minister, who simply stated that the required information was still being collected.
It may be recalled that on Jan 26, 2017, the Inter-Services Public Relations had said that the question of allotment of agricultural land to a former army chief had the “potential to create misunderstandings between state institutions”.
“This debate with intent of maligning army also has the potential to create misunderstandings between state institutions, thus considered detrimental to existing cohesion,” it said, clarifying that the allotment of agricultural land to army officers and soldiers was made under the relevant constitutional provision.
“Allotment to former COAS Gen (retd) Raheel Sharif is also under same provision and through government/army procedures.”
Asked if he would pursue replies to the questions asked about the civil-military bureaucracy, Senator Babar said he had raised the issue and it was now for parliament to pursue the matter if it wanted to.
According to the information laid before the Senate, a retired CJP could receive pension between a minimum of Rs774,547 and a maximum of Rs896,636 per month, while a high court CJ could get between Rs687,984 and Rs759,964 per month.
SC judges received, on average, a pension of nearly Rs800,000 per month, while judges of high courts received Rs670,000 every month, the written reply said.
Upon retirement, an SC judge or his widow is also entitled to a driver and an orderly, 300 litres of petrol, round-the-clock security, 3,000 free local telephone calls a month, 2,000 units of electricity, free water, and 2,500 cubic metres of natural gas (which usually costs over Rs50,000).
No income tax is payable on these benefits and perks and a judge availing these facilities shall also undertake arbitration involving government interest, if assigned to him, without charging any fee.
A retired judge of the Supreme Court, if subsequently appointed to a post under the government, is also entitled to receive – in addition to his pension – the full pay, allowances and privileges of the post on which he has been re-employed.
However, the perks allowed to a retired chief justice and judges of a high court are suspended upon their re-employment with the federal or provincial government, the reply stated.
Upon retirement, a high court judge is entitled to the option of a driver or an orderly, 800 free local calls, 150 litres of petrol, 800 units of electricity, free water supply and 2,500 cubic metres of gas every month.
Like an SC judge, a high court judge is also required to undertake arbitration work without charging any fee. In addition, the judges of the superior judiciary are entitled to purchase the official vehicle that has been in their use, upon retirement at a depreciated value.
When asked whether any chief justice or judge had availed benefits over and above those allowed under the rules, the law ministry’s response stated that former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry was provided a 6,000cc bulletproof Mercedes vehicle by the prime minister for three months.
The expenditure on fuel, repair and maintenance of this car was borne by the law division “on the directions of the Islamabad High Court”. It also details the litigation involving the vehicle provided to the former CJP, concluding that “this entire case is sub judice [for the past over three years]”.
In response to another question by Mr Babar, the parliamentary affairs minister had informed the Senate on Mar 9 that members of parliament were entitled to some facilities upon retirement, but not pension.
Post-retirement facilities for parliamentarians included healthcare as admissible to sitting members, free access to secretariats, libraries and lounges of parliament, a permanent entry pass to observe proceedings, the use of VIP lounges at airports and an official gratis passport.
Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2017