• PM wants legislation to resolve missing persons’ issue
• Enforcement of laws to check sexual violence ordered
• Minister says overseas Pakistanis to vote in next elections
ISLAMABAD: The cabinet on Wednesday gave a relief of Rs21 billion to the federal secretariat employees by approving a 25 per cent increase in their salaries, urging provinces to end wage disparity between their civil servants and those of the Centre.
The cabinet meeting, which was presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan, also expressed concern over the longstanding issue of missing persons and directed the authorities concerned to make prompt legislation in the parliament to ensure that there was no missing person in the present government.
PM Khan expressed his displeasure over the ‘increasing’ cases of sexual violence against women and children, and directed that the recently enacted laws be effectively implemented.
The cabinet also discussed the forthcoming Senate polls scheduled for March 3.
It gave credit to the present government for taking serious steps to close the door on horse-trading by promulgating an ordinance to hold Senate elections through open vote.
The cabinet approved the 25pc increase in salaries of the secretariat employees (disparity allowance) following their recent protest outside the Parliament House.
Speaking at a press conference after the cabinet meeting, Information Minister Shibli Faraz said the government had opted for the increase in basic pay of its employees.
“There are some fundamental structural issues; certain clauses of the 18th Amendment also need to be looked into. The government employees in the provincial departments get more salary and those in the federal institutions get less. As a result, they (federal employees) want to go to the provinces while those in the provinces do not want to join here (in Islamabad),” he added.
A source told Dawn that many cabinet members opposed the decision to increase salaries of the federal secretariat by 25pc.
“They were of the view that if the government comes under pressure once and raises salaries in such a way, some other group will rise tomorrow with a similar demand,” the source added.
The meeting was informed that the government will bear an additional Rs21 billion burden annually by making the 25pc increase in the basic salaries of employees from grades 1 to 19.
Another source said Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his concern on the issue of missing persons and informed the cabinet that some intelligence agencies sought amendments to specific laws in order to address the issue effectively.
At this, Law Minister Farogh Naseem expressed his dissatisfaction. However, Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari informed the prime minister that a proposed bill to stop disappearance of people was lying with the law ministry for over two years but nothing was being done on it.
The prime minister intervened and asked all stakeholders to sit together and proposed a consensus bill for necessary amendments to the relevant laws.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan directed the law minister to immediately reactivate the bill on the issue of missing persons as now, after drastic fall in terrorist acts, the issue ought to be redressed,” Shibli Faraz said.
He said the issue was raised in the cabinet by Dr Mazari, who gave a complete perspective with regard to the proposed legislation.
“The prime minister recalled that he himself had visited such sit-ins for missing persons to show solidarity with them. The minister pointed out that almost every country faced security issues but there had to be a mechanism like three months, six months or nine months,” he added.
Asked about the nomination of Federal Minister Faisal Vawda, who was facing a disqualification case in the Election Commission, the minister said the matter was yet to be decided but the party leadership decided to give him representation in the Senate.
During the cabinet meeting, the prime minister pointed out that after the 1970 election, there had always been objections about the electoral process.
The minister recalled that electoral reforms were carried out in 2017 but the committee headed by Ishaq Dar ignored the issue of electronic voting.
“We want the forthcoming Senate elections and others after it to be transparent and impartial,” he said, adding that the overseas Pakistanis were rendering great services for Pakistan and sending substantial remittances.
In the next elections, he said the overseas Pakistanis would be given the opportunity of electronic voting so that they could have a voice and participate in the country’s polling process.
Shibli Faraz said the prime minister took strict notice of the increasing incidents of sexual crimes against women and children despite the passage of Zainab Alert Bill, and issued a direction to the relevant authorities to take measures to stop such incidents.
The minister said the inheritance bill had been passed by the parliament which was meant to protect the legal rights of women and to get succession certificate.
“Now the system has been revamped and the heirs of a deceased person can get a succession certificate in 15 days,” he added.
Mr Faraz said the opposition just resorted to rhetoric instead of forming a committee like the PTI and finding out who had crossed the party line.
PTI had sent 20 of its MPAs home for violating party discipline, he said, asking why the opposition did not do so.
About high prices of essential commodities, the minister linked them to various factors.
“When PTI formed government, there was no governance and there was a huge gap between revenue and expenditure, and then coronavirus surfaced,” Mr Faraz said.
He cited statistics to show that the expenditure of the Prime Minister Office and the Prime Minister House had reduced massively while Prime Minister Imran Khan did not have a single camp office.
On the other hand, during the past 10 years of PPP and PML-N governments, there were several camps, which incurred costs amounting to billions of rupees with thousands of policemen deployed for security.
The information minister said the Prime Minister House and Prime Minister Office’s expenditure, which stood at Rs509 million and Rs514 million in 2018, respectively, fell to Rs339m and Rs305m, respectively, the next year and then reduced further to Rs280m and Rs334m.
He said these austerity steps showed that when the country and its people were passing through difficult times, their prime minister understood it.
Published in Dawn, February 18th, 2021