ISLAMABAD - The Senate on Monday rejected the proposed bill with a majority vote that not only sought to increase two-fold salaries of parliamentarians but also that of Senate’s chairman as well as deputy chairman and National Assembly speaker and deputy speaker.

The draft law was rejected at the early stage with votes of 29 lawmakers while 16 senators cast their votes in its favour. The legislators opposed the move to give raise to the parliamentarians in the wake of current economic crunch the country is facing. 

The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf  and the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) opposed the law while Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM-P), Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) and National Party (NP) supported it.

Those who opposed the law said that raise in the salaries of parliamentarians would send a wrong message to the masses that are facing the high inflation in the country. 

The supporters of the law argued that all the lawmakers did not have rich financial background and there was disparity between the salaries of the parliamentarians and that of superior court judges, chief election commissioner, heads of the regulatory and autonomous bodies, and bureaucrats. They also alleged that those opposing the law also wanted to get it passed and had already agreed to vote in its favour but were now doing political point scoring by opposing it.

The three separate private bills including the Chairman and Speaker (Salaries, Allowances and Privileges) (Amendment) Bill 2020, the Deputy Chairman and Deputy Speaker (Salaries, Allowances and Privileges) (Amendment) Bill 2020 and the Members of Parliament (Salaries and Allowances) (Amendment) Bill 2020 included on the Monday’s agenda.

After a heated debate, the house rejected the leave to introduce the Chairman and Speaker (Salaries, Allowances and Privileges) (Amendment) Bill, 2020 with a division of 29-16 votes. After this, the house rejected the leaves to introduce two other bills with a majority of vote through a voice vote.

The movers of the bills were Chief Whip of PTI in the Senate Senator Sajjad Hussain Tori, PML-N senators Sardar Yaqoob Khan Nasar, Dilawar Khan, and Shamim Afridi, National Party Senator Dr. Ashok Kumar and an independent legislator from Balochistan Naseebullah Bazai.

The Chairman and Speaker (Salaries, Allowances and Privileges) (Amendment) Bill, 2020, sought to increase the salary of Senate chairman and National Assembly speaker to bring it at par with that of salaries of Supreme Court judges and proposes to increase it from the present Rs205,000 (two hundred five thousand rupees) to Rs 879,669 (eight hundred seventy nine thousand six hundred sixty nine rupees).

The Deputy Chairman and Deputy Speaker (Salaries, Allowances and Privileges) (Amendment) Bill, 2020 sought to increase the salaries of deputy speaker NA and deputy chairman Senate to match with those of salaries of high court judges.

The Members of Parliament (Salaries and Allowances) (Amendment) Bill, 2020 sought to increase the salaries of members of the parliament from existing Rs150, 000 to Rs300, 000. It also proposes to increase travel allowance of parliamentarians to cover the cost of business class air tickets and air-conditioned class rail tickets.

After Senator Naseebullah Bazai, one of the movers of the bills, spoke in the house in favour of the bills, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Senator Azam Khan Swati opposed the move and quoting the Articles 73 and 74 of the Constitution said that the bills come under the definition of money bill and could only be initiated in the National Assembly.

He reminded that the money bill could only be initiated in the lower house as upper house has no powers to pass or reject such a bill. However, he admitted that there was a disparity in salaries as heads of regulatory bodies and even some members of the boards took up to Rs 0.7 million and Rs 0.8 million monthly salary.

“This system is based on injustice and no one can shut eyes on it,” he said adding that the bills could be debated in the house. He also said that it was a matter of fact that every member of the parliament did not belong to rich background.

PTI Senator Faisal Javed Khan opposed the bills and said that the perks of public representatives should not be increased unless income of common man including labourers and peasants doesn’t increase.

Ameer JI Senator Sirajul Haq said that the lawmakers should manage to live with existing salaries.

Parliamentary Leader of PPP in the Senate Sherry Rehman opposed the bills and said it was true that the perks and privileges of Pakistan’s parliamentarians were low in the region and a number of members depend only on their salaries. “But this law would send a wrong message among the masses as the country is facing acute economic crisis.”

PML-N Senator Mushahid Ullah Khan said that disparity among the salaries should come to an end.

PTI’s Mehr Taj Roghani said that salaries of the poor classes should be increased first and her party colleague Senator Noman Wazir also opposed the bills and gave his own formula to increase the salaries.

Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq also opposed the bills said that resources should be first diverted to the poor and downtrodden people and those living below the poverty line.

MQM-P legislator Barrister Mohammad Ali Saif supported the bills and disagreed with the minister that the bills come under the definition of money bills. He said increase in salaries would not burden the national kitty and those lawmakers having rich background could donate their increased salaries to the welfare organizations.

He said that it was true that all lawmakers don’t have a uniform economic background and some belong to middle and lower middle class. Responding to her remarks, federal minister Swati aid that Article 81 (b) says that expenditures of Senate and National Assembly come under money bill.

PKMAP lawmaker Usman Kakar also supported the law and said that majority lawmakers wanted to increase their salaries and now were only doing political point scoring. JUI-F Senator Moulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri also supported the bills and said that increase in salaries would shut doors of corruption. ANP Senator Sitara Ayaz endorsed Haideri and said that it was not a crime to demand raise in salaries.

NP Senator Ashok Kumar supported the bills and said that these were private members’ bills and majority lawmakers wanted to get these passed. He said that 99 percent members would vote in their favour if chair orders secret balloting.