ISLAMABAD: A bill seeking two-fold increase in salaries and other perks of parliamentarians is set to land in the Senate tomorrow (Monday).

The draft Salaries and Allowances Amendment Bill seeks an increase in the salaries of Senate chairman and National Assembly speaker from Rs225,000 to Rs879,000 to match the salaries of Supreme Court judges and a rise in the remuneration of the Senate deputy chairman and National Assembly deputy speaker to match those of high court judges.

The bill further seeks to increase the salaries of parliament members from Rs150,000 to Rs300,000. It also calls for the travel allowance of parliamentarians to be increased to cover the cost of business class air tickets and AC class train tickets.

The draft bill also seeks 25 business class tickets to be allocated for each lawmaker and for the option of these tickets being used by the members’ spouses and children to travel within the country to be available.

Backed by Shibli, PTI chief whip in Senate among others to table bill tomorrow; PML-N wants the increase rationalised

“For every journey performed for the purpose of attending a session or a meeting of a committee or for attending any other business connected with his duties as member (of Parliament) from his usual place of residence to the place where the session or meeting is held or other business is transacted and for the return journey from such place to his usual place of residence a member shall be entitled to: a) an amount equal to one air-conditioned class fare, where the journey is performed by rail: b) travelling allowance equal to an amount of one business class return air fare from the airport nearest to his usual place of residence to the place where the meeting is held irrespective of the fact that PIA operates the flights with or without business class facility on said route: provided that PIA shall provide the rate actual or presumptive business class air fare on the said routes to the National Assembly and Senate Secretariat; provided further where PIA does not provide actual or presumptive business class air fare, a member shall be entitled to twice the economy class fare on said route; c) a mileage allowance at the rate of Rs25 per kilometre where the journey or any part thereof is performance by road,” the draft bill reads.

It says a member, who performs a journey between a place that is not his usual place of residence and the place where a session or meeting of a committee is held or other business connected with his duties as a member is transacted, may draw travelling allowance for a journey between his usual place of residence and the place where the session or meeting is held or other business is transacted.

The bill is to be introduced in the House by senators Naseebullah Bazai (independent), Sajjad Hussain Turi (independent, chief whip of PTI), Sardar Mohammad Yaqoob Khan Nasir (PML-N), Dilawar Khan (independent), Dr Ashok Kumar (National Party) and Shamim Afridi (independent).

While addressing a press conference, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan on Saturday said that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf was not in majority in the Senate but it “will do everything in its power to make sure no injustice is done towards the public”.

Answering a question regarding PTI’s chief whip tabling the bill on Monday, Dr Awan said that the party was united towards implementing the PM’s austerity drive. “If a member of the party is bringing up such a bill, he is doing it as an individual and the party does not support such measures.”

She made it clear that those promoting their own cause were not well-wishers of the government.

The PM’s aide said the lives of the parliamentarians would be enriched only when the public would prosper, economy was stabilised completely and price hike was controlled.

Announcing his opposition to the bill, Senator Faisal Javed of the PTI claimed that public, particularly the poor segment of society, was on top priority of his party and Prime Minister Imran Khan. He said the premier set an example by drastic cut in the expenses of chief’s executive’s office. He said the public representatives should follow in the footprints of PM Khan till complete restoration of economy.

When contacted, Leader of the House in the Senate Syed Shibli Faraz, however, said he would openly support the bill. “There is no need to be apologetic,” the PTI senator remarked.

Rejecting the impression that all the lawmakers rolled in money, Senator Faraz pointed out that the salaries of lawmakers from Balochistan were almost three times higher than those of the members of the two houses of the parliament.

He said he knew many colleagues [in the parliament] whose only source of income was their salary and they found it difficult to make both ends meet.

Parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz in the Senate Mushahidullah Khan said the salaries of all the public office holders needed to be rationalised. However, he added, the salary structure had to be based on some principle. For example, he said, the head of state should get more salary than others, followed by the PM, chairman of Senate and National Assembly Speaker.

The PML-N senator said salaries of judges and army officers should also be rationalised, while some relief in shape of subsidy on essential edible items should be given to those who did not fall in the salaried class.

PPP parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman said her party would not support the bill.

Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar of the PPP also told Dawn that the increase should not be for a particular class only. “There should be an increase in the salaries of government employees as well,” he opined.

Published in Dawn, February 2nd, 2020