ISLAMABAD: A Senate panel approved a bill on Monday to increase allowances of former rulers of states that acceded to Pakistan at the time of independence by as much as 200 per cent.
Details showed that the country did not treat those well who abandoned everything for its sake.
K-P lawmakers approve hefty pay rise for themselves
The Senate’s Standing Committee on Finance approved amendments in the Rulers of Acceding States Order of 1972, allowing the government to increase allowances of the former rulers and their descendants by at least 200 per cent. However, even after this increase, the maximum allowance of a ruler will be only Rs400,000 per month, that too only in case of the Amir of Bahawalpur.
There will still be cases where monthly maintenance allowance would be Rs2,083 – even lower than Rs14,000 official monthly minimum wage of a labourer.
At present, a meager sum of Rs3.64 million is paid annually to all 14 former rulers and their dependents, amounting to an average of Rs260,000 per ruler. Currently, the annual allowance is as low as Rs1,536 per year. “I feel ashamed that the minimum allowance will still be Rs25,000 per annum even after this increase,” said Senator Saleem Mandviwalla, who is the chairman of the standing committee, while approving the bill.
“We are talking about people who gave up their lands, properties and everything else they had for Pakistan,” said Mandviwalla while recommending the government that the annual allowance should not be less than Rs500,000, in any case.
In November 2007, former prime minister Shaukat Aziz’s Cabinet had approved 200 per cent increase in the monthly maintenance allowance to ex-rulers of all merged and acceding states and their dependents. The Cabinet had also set the minimum allowance at Rs25,000 per annum –a decision that remained unimplemented even after a decade. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s cabinet again approved a summary to enhance the allowances in July last year. But, these amendments are yet to be approved by Parliament.
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In 1972, the maintenance allowance had been determined by taking into account the average annual income generated by a state at the time of its accession to Pakistan.
Even after the fresh increase, the additional impact on the exchequer would be just Rs7.7 million, bringing the country’s total contribution towards these rulers and their families to Rs11.34 million. This would effectively amount to Rs810,227 per ruler per annum.
The maintenance allowance had been sanctioned to the rulers of the acceding states or their dependents in lieu of privy purses at that time. Because of inflationary pressure it has lost its worth, said Secretary States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) Arbab Shahzad.
Speaker National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq declared the Bill a Money Bill, because of its financial implication. In case of a Money Bill, the Senate does not have voting right, unlike other pieces of legislation. The Senate committee recommended that the minimum allowance should not be less than Rs500,000 per annum but it is not binding on the government to accept it.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2017.