The Punjab government’s new austerity measures are a refreshing change in a country where state officials have always have a penchant for extravagances. Telling ministers, parliamentarians and officers that they can no longer travel business class might not go down too well, but if it can work anywhere, it is in Punjab, where everyone in government knows not to cross the directives of the sitting Chief Minister; unless of course, you are given the express permission to do so.

The Punjab government works on different principles, compared to other provincial governments. The Chief Minister likes being in the driving seat in all matters related to the province. In May 2013, CM Sharif kept the portfolios of eight different ministries after the government was formed. The Punjabi rumour mill is always rife with talk of the ‘court of Shahbaz Sharif’ whenever the PML-N government is in power, which is a nod to his predisposition of running the government in a more absolutist way than others.

Which brings us to the overall structure of PML-N as a party. Like most other major political parties in the country, it is in no way or sense democratic. Nawaz Sharif is at the top, but right below him is his brother, and the Chief Minister of Punjab. This is why the younger brother often performs the multi-functional role of CM, second-in-command of the party, and on a more personal level, a blood relative of the sitting Prime Minister. Important missions such as signing important CPEC-related agreements with China and other close allies are often undertaken by Shahbaz Sharif. Are the austerity measures going to apply then, or will ‘special considerations’ be made in different circumstances?

Punjab has already attempted this once before, in 2011, with curbs on petrol allowances, and a ban on supplementary development grants. But the biggest problem in Punjab is always that these rules apply to all those expect those that have the ear of Shahbaz Sharif. Exceptions can and always are, made for a chosen few in the Punjab government. These ‘favours’ to Sharif loyalists are a major part of the leadership tactics of the sitting Chief Minister. If there were no special considerations made, the Punjab government would have been applauded for this measure. But as it is, all these austerity measures do is deny the perks to some, while granting countless more to others.