After the Punjab government approved a 150% planning allowance, the three service groups on Monday joined hands and aired their frustration against the federal government and the state for arbitrarily ignoring them in awarding the executive allowance.
The Economist and Technical Group, the Commerce and Trade Group and the Information Service Group staged a protest in front of the finance ministry for issuing a discriminatory notification that mostly favoured the all-powerful Pakistan Administrative Services.
These officers began a pen down strike, which crippled work in their ministries on Monday.
The protests were held a week after the Punjab cabinet approved a new planning performance allowance equal to 150% of the running basic pay for the employees of the Planning and Development Department of the province.
The allowance has been given on the basis that the provincial development portfolio increased from Rs135 billion in 2009 to Rs685 billion in 2023, which has increased the workload of the officers by 507%.
Last week, the Punjab cabinet approved the grant of Planning Performance Allowance at the rate of 150% of the running basic pay for officers of the Planning and Development Board.
The Punjab cabinet took the decision on the lines of a similar decision of 2019 by the government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa that granted Planning Performance Allowance equal to 150% of the initial basic pay to the officers of the planning cadre.
Ironically, the federal cabinet in June this year had approved the 150% executive allowance on the same grounds that the talented officers were not ready to serve in the federal bureaucracy due to higher salaries in the provinces. But the finance ministry tailor-made the notification that deprived the major services groups and mainly benefited the Pakistan Administrative Service Group and the Secretariat Group.
“We have been given a message that this country did not need professions like economists and technical experts,” Ghazala Channar, the deputy chief of the Planning Commission, who was among the dozens of officers protesting outside the finance ministry, said.
She added that the Finance Division’s earlier notification was discriminatory and only a specific group had benefited.
“We negotiated with all relevant people and even suspended our protest in the past on the request of the planning secretary and the planning minister but no one is hearing us and instead we are blamed for blackmailing the state,” Ghazala said.
Pakistan’s prevailing economic conditions do not permit any extravagance but certain groups and people are being given huge benefits and the government ministers and parliamentarians are busy in overseas trips and driving new expensive luxury vehicles.
“The cabinet decision is meant for all the civil service groups’ officers serving in the Pak Secretariat but some elements in the government created discrimination,” Mohammad Zeeshan, an assistant chief economic section of the Planning Commission, said.
Zeeshan said that it was difficult to digest this discrimination where one officer was getting the executive allowance while the other was being deprived despite doing more paperwork.
Earlier, the Economist Group alone was protesting but it was joined by the officers from the information and commerce groups who too had been deprived.
The option for the government is to either give the allowance to all the officers serving in the Pak Secretariat or withdraw it completely.
The sources said that the matter had also been discussed at the level of prime minister as certain officers of the PM’s team were also left out, mainly the ones with military background.
The Economist Group supposedly should have been the backbone of economic planning in Pakistan but it is a highly marginalised civil service group, often forcing young people to resign from government jobs.
The officers say that the 27% inflation rate punches more when an officer from the PAS sitting next door was availing the 150% executive allowance for doing less amount of work.
The sources said that the Finance Division had drafted a notification to give the 150% executive allowance to the left-out officers on the condition that they would surrender other allowances. The notification is pending for final approval.
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