LAHORE: A bill recently passed by the Punjab Assembly for an increase in the salaries of MPAs was challenged in the Lahore High Court seeking suspension of operation of the impugned “The Punjab Public Representatives’ Laws (Amendment) Bill 2019” and declare it as illegal.
In his writ petition, Chaudhry Shoaib Saleem Advocate contended the court that Pakistan was making every possible effort to increase its foreign reserves either by borrowing money from various countries or by going to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) besides wooing various heads of state to make investment in Pakistan. He submitted that everybody knows that Prime Minister Imran Khan auctioned all the vehicles and buffaloes of the Prime Minister House merely to reduce the expenses to the minimum level.
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He maintained in his petition that the lawmakers in the assembly seemed in a rush in either tabling or getting the bill passed. He said “The Punjab Public Representatives’ Laws (Amendment) Bill 2019” was tabled by PTI’s Ghazanfar Abbas on March 12 and was immediately referred to the committee concerned for the report by Deputy Speaker Sardar Dost Mazari. Law Minister Basharat Raja did not oppose it to the delight of the assembly members whose number was perhaps the highest in the current sitting of the assembly and the bill was finally approved by the Punjab Assembly within 24 hours.
The petitioner contended that the impugned bill was aimed at increasing the salaries of the chief minister, ministers, speaker and deputy speaker, chairmen of committees, advisers, special assistants and all the members through amendments to different laws, each relating to different categories.
In the impugned bill an approval was accorded for increase in the monthly salary of the speaker from the existing Rs37,000 to Rs200,000, of the deputy speaker from Rs35,000 to Rs185,000, of the chief minister from Rs39,000 to Rs300,000, of the ministers from Rs35,000 to Rs185,000, of the parliamentary secretaries from Rs20,000 to Rs83,000, of the special assistants form Rs35,000 to Rs185,000, of advisers from Rs30,000 to Rs185,000 and of MPAs from Rs18,000 to Rs80,000.
He submitted that the impugned bill also approved an increase in the amount of their utility bills and sumptuary allowances etc. It seeks an upward revision of the annual travelling allowance of the parliamentary secretaries from the existing Rs120,000 to Rs200,000.
He further highlighted that the statement of objects and reasons of the bills says: “The emoluments of public representatives of the province of Punjab are not at par with those of the sister provinces and the federal government. Keeping in view the recent spells of price hike and devaluation, it is essential that the emoluments of the public representatives of Punjab are increased to a reasonable extent.”
The treasury and the opposition members in the Punjab Assembly joined hands in a rare show of solidarity when it came to an increase in their salaries, vigorously thumping desks after a private bill was moved for the purpose.
The bill which recommended an increase in the salaries and fringe benefits for all the assembly members including the chief minister, ministers, speaker and the deputy speaker sailed through with complete consensus and within five minutes it was passed by the lawmakers.
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The petitioner was of the view that the passage of the impugned bill not only shocked an ordinary man suffering from extreme economic crises but also the PTI-led federal government and drew a strong reaction from the prime minister. He submitted that the bill was passed by the members of the Punjab Assembly with malafide intention for their own interest in violation of the state policy of austerity measures at the cost of taxpayers’ money.
He requested the court that the impugned bill passed by the Punjab Assembly be declared illegal adding and its operation be suspended in the interest of justice.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 16th, 2019.
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