LAHORE   -  Punjab legislators bonhomie which helped them approve hefty pay raise for themselves the other day proved short-lived after Thursday’s development frustrating their hopes of getting salaries at par with their counterparts in KPK Assembly.

In his tweet, Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his displeasure over the new legislation stating that heavy raise in salaries of lawmakers was not justified at a time when the country was struggling to come out of economic impasse.

Khan also directed the Punjab Governor Ch Muhammad Sarwar not to sign the Bill in its present form.

For understandable reasons though, the gesture of affability and harmony between the two sides was clearly missing on Thursday when the House took up the Punjab Aab-e-Pak Authority Bill out of turn for consideration.

The Salaries Bill was also taken up out of turn only a day before but no voice of dissent was heard in the Assembly on Wednesday.

Sources confirmed that Punjab Governor is now most likely to send the controversial legislation back to the Assembly for revision as desired by the Prime Minister.

Under the Constitution, the Governor can send any Bill back to the Assembly for reconsideration within 10 days. But he cannot exercise this power for the second time if the Assembly sends the Bill without any amendment.

The Bill automatically becomes a law after 10 days even though the Governor does not sign it.   

In the new situation, the Punjab government has also decided to reconsider some of its provisions especially those relating to the perks and privileges of Punjab Chief Minister and the life-long free treatment of ex-lawmakers.

The Bill would be presented before the Assembly yet again when the Governor sends it back.

Interestingly, many lawmakers were forced to backtrack on their earlier positions on the Salaries Bill after the Prime Minister’s tweet. The first U-turn in this regard came from the Federal Minister for Information Fawad Ch who later termed the Bill as against the party policy and in conflict with the austerity drive of the Federal government.

In his previous statement, however, the Federal Minister had welcomed the Bill stating that it would enable politicians belonging to the middle class to stay in politics.

Punjab Minister for Information Samsam Bukhari said the opinion was divided in the party over the new legislation.

“Some are in favour of the raise in salaries, while others are opposed to the move”, he said. But he also justified the Bill, stating that the salaries of Punjab lawmakers had now equaled to their counterparts in KPK Assembly as a result of this legislation.  Samsam further explained that Punjab Assembly members especially women coming of far off areas were facing financial crunch due to high cost of living in the provincial metropolis.

It is relevant to mention here that KPK Assembly had passed a Bill in January 2017 raising the salaries and perks of its lawmakers. But strangely enough, the party chief Imran Khan had not raised any objection over the legislation at that time. It happened some two years back when the PTI was ruling the province.

Following the Prime Minister’s intervention in Punjab, many are now raising the question if he will also ask the KPK government to review its past legislation. After all, there could not be two different yardsticks to be applied in the two provinces where the PTI is in power at the moment.