Collecting debt?: No free lunch for G-B government employees

Finance division orders govt be reimbursed for special allowances paid since 2011.

Shabbir Mir June 12, 2013
Finance division orders govt be reimbursed for special allowances paid since 2011. PHOTO: FILE


Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) government employees boycotted their duties on Wednesday after their special allowances were declared null from 2011 onwards.

On the directives of the Ministry of Finance in Islamabad, the G-B finance department issued a notification on June 4, 2013 stating the special allowances given to G-B government employees were declared seized from 2011 onwards.  The notification further asked concerned authorities to recover the amount paid after 2011 to employees belonging to the region. The decision is also applicable to pensioners.

“This is sheer injustice and we will resist it at all levels,” said G-B All Employees Association President Bahadur Khan. The association, a representative body of local employees, gave the call for a strike which was simultaneously observed by 37,000 employees in the region’s seven districts.

“The allowance is recognition of the conditions G-B employees have been working in,” said Khan, adding the 25% allowance was no different than the 50% allowance given to federal government employees posted in the area. “These federal government employees are also entitled to double the salary,” he argued.

The special allowance was first awarded to G-B employees by former military dictator General Ziaul Haq in view of the hard conditions prevailing in the mountainous region. Although the allowance was stopped temporarily in 2011, it resumed after the G-B Supreme Appellate Court ruled in its favour. However, if employees are forced to repay the accumulated allowance amount, they will have to return thousands of rupees to the government.

“How is this possible for an ordinary employee? It is a considerable amount given that price hikes take place on a daily basis,” said Khan.

The strike coincided with the federal government’s presentation of its first budget in the National Assembly. Government hospitals were also affected with doctors refusing to entertain patients other than those requiring emergency care. Similarly, teachers remained absent from classes causing middle and primary class examinations to be suspended.

Chief Minister Mehdi Shah’s office told The Express Tribune that a report on the matter has been sought from the finance secretary.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 13th, 2013.


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