As lawmakers from both opposition and the ruling party weighed in on the proposed increase in lawmakers' salaries, Senator Sajjad Hussain Turi — PTI’s chief whip in the Senate — said that the bill would be scrapped if a consensus could not be reached.
Turi, who was elected as an independent candidate and was appointed the ruling party's chief whip in the Senate last year, was supposed to table the bill in the Senate tomorrow.
Speaking to DawnNewsTV, Turi said that those opposing the move were simply playing the "numbers game".
"There is a need to increase the salaries," said Turi, while claiming that almost 85 per cent of the 104 members had agreed in principle to support the bill.
He added that they would consult various political parties regarding the bill and if a consensus could not be reached, the proposed bill would be scrapped.
National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, however, termed the proposal "unreasonable", adding that the country had "not come out of the economic crisis yet".
The NA speaker added that a raise in lawmakers' salaries at this point would put an unnecessary burden on the treasury. "Any suggestion to increase lawmakers' should only be made once the treasury is able to withstand the additional burden."
Voices of dissent
Earlier, leaders from both the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and opposition party, PPP, had voiced their opposition to the bill, which seeks a two-fold increase in the salaries and other perks of parliamentarians.
In a tweet on Sunday, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Asad Umar said that he hoped that media reports regarding the bill were untrue.
"In these circumstances, it is not at all reasonable that the country's representatives receive an increase in their concessions," he said, adding that if there is a margin in the treasury, it should be used to reduce the burden on the people.
Umar's comments had come a day after Leader of the House in the Senate Syed Shibli Faraz had said he would openly support the bill.
"There is no need to be apologetic," the PTI senator had remarked.
Meanwhile, PPP Senator Sherry Rehman categorically stated that her party would not support the bill.
Taking to Twitter, she said: "This is a time of great economic crisis for the people of Pakistan and not the time to for us to start matching [our] salaries with the region or others. Public money needs to be spent on public relief right now."
The proposed bill
The draft Salaries and Allowances Amendment Bill is set to be introduced in the House by senators — independent Naseebullah Bazai, independent Sajjad Hussain Turi, who was appointed as PTI's chief whip last year, PML-N's Sardar Mohammad Yaqoob Khan Nasir, independent Dilawar Khan, National Party's Dr Ashok Kumar and independent Shamim Afridi.
It 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.
While addressing a press conference, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan on Saturday said that PTI was not in majority in the Senate but "will do everything in its power to make sure no injustice is done towards the public".
Answering a question regarding the 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.”
Not all PTI lawmakers seemed to be on board, however.
Leader of the House in the Senate Faraz had pointed out that the salaries of lawmakers from Balochistan were almost three times higher than those of the members of the two houses of 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 ends meet.
The parliamentary leader of the PML-N in the Senate Mushahidullah Khan said the salaries of all the public office holders needed to be rationalised. But, he added that the salary structure had to be based on some principle.