Buck stops in the pocket

Lawmakers from both sides of aisle in Punjab give rare show of unity to hand themselves a massive pay raise

Editorial March 16, 2019

The PTI government came into power on the back of promises of change from its predecessors. But lawmakers from both sides of the aisle in Punjab gave a rare show of unity earlier in the week to hand themselves a massive pay raise.

The news shocked Prime Minister Imran Khan who would be paid less than the Punjab Chief Minister after the raise. PM Imran immediately directed a halt to the move.

A look at the figures shows that lawmakers in the Punjab Assembly are not well paid at the moment with basic salaries of MPAs a paltry Rs18,000 – just Rs1,500 more than the minimum wage of Rs16,500. However, the hike would have taken that rise to Rs80,000. The chief minister’s salary would increase from its current level of Rs39,000 to Rs300,000.

The PM, though, found this an extreme financial burden on the state’s empty coffers. He had launched an agenda of shunning all symbols of opulence by starting the practice of abandoning long motorcades — albeit by resorting to use of a helicopter for his daily commute to work – and opening up the doors of government buildings, such as governor houses, to the public. Some in his cabinet even decided to forego their salaries.

Apart from a few, Imran had to include a number of unscrupulous ‘electables’ in his party in order to unlock the PM’s seat. These elements have been slowly, but surely, showing their true colours. Whether in the form of interfering in the affairs of hospitals or universities or exhibiting an elite status, they damage Imran’s brand of self-righteous politics.

PM Imran may have forced the Punjab government to delay the bill by throwing his weight around, but legally there is little he can do to actually stop it from passing. Having managed a diplomatic minefield with India, it remains to be seen how adept can he be at wielding a whip to tame his cabal of provincial lawmakers.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 16th, 2019.

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