LAHORE: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday summoned Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar to Islamabad and reprimanded him for having allowed a bill to be passed that promises an exorbitant increase in the salaries and perks of provincial lawmakers.
The prime minister, leading an austerity drive, was offended by the amendment to the Punjab Public Representatives Act, 2006. In apparent frustration, the next morning he expressed his “extreme disappointment,” tweeting about the Punjab Assembly’s decision to raise pays and privileges of MPAs, ministers, and the chief minister.
“Once prosperity returns to Pakistan, such a move can be justified, but now, when we do not have the resources to provide basic amenities to all our people, this is untenable,” he stated.
Sources privy to the development told Dawn that the PM-CM meeting was already scheduled but the passage of the bill sprang up as the most important issue to be discussed.
“The prime minister showed displeasure over the passage of bill, hand-in-hand with the opposition, that did not match party policy,” the source said, adding the PM asked the chief minister to take remedial measures.
When contacted, the chief minister’s spokesperson Dr Shahbaz Gill said it was not true that the prime minister had summoned the chief minister on the passage of this particular bill, asserting that the PM-CM meeting had been about development projects. However, he did not share any details. He merely tweeted, “Alhamdulillah, wonderful meeting with Prime Minister Sahib”.
The treasury and main opposition parties had jointly moved the amendment bill and the house passed it unanimously, within minutes, on March 13.
Following the PM’s tweet, the CM’s spokesperson tweeted that the former chief minister had not been given adequate housing allowance or a 2,500CC car, but “the CM, who has held the office for a period not less than six months, under Article 130 of the constitution, shall, for his lifetime, be entitled to suitable and adequate security.”
He, however, did not comment on the increase in salaries that jumped from Rs59,000 to Rs375,000. Similarly, the amendment bill increased the speaker’s salary from Rs37,000 to Rs200,000 per month, that of the deputy speaker from Rs35,000 to Rs185,000, and similarly for cabinet members and advisers. MPAs in Punjab are now entitled to Rs80,000 per month rather than Rs18,000, and their utility bills’ entitlement has gone up to Rs200,000 instead of the earlier Rs120,000. This fiscal adjustment saw no opposition.
Following prime minister’s expression of grievance, the bill passed by the provincial assembly was not sent to the governor for assent, who later stated that he would not sign it. It has reliably been learned that the chief minister’s secretariat did not forward the bill to the governor and plans are under way to amend the clauses.
Sources claimed that the Punjab assembly speaker had the power to amend a clause that detailed the increase in perks and privileges provided to lawmakers, quoting the Punjab Assembly ‘rules of business’ clause — the correction of patent errors: “Where a bill is passed by the assembly, the speaker shall have the power to correct patent errors and make such other changes in the bill as are incidental or consequential upon the amendments accepted by the assembly.”
Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2019