ISLAMABAD: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Sherry Rehman said that considering Pakistan’s current economic situation, it would be tone deaf for the country’s lawmakers to take a pay raise.
Speaking during a Senate session on Monday debating an increase in lawmakers’ salaries, Rehman said: “This is a very important matter. However, the PPP will reject this bill.”
The bill in question seeks an increase in the salaries of Senate chairman and National Assembly speaker from Rs225,000 to Rs879,000 to match the salaries of Supreme Court judges and a rise in the remuneration of the Senate deputy chairman and National Assembly deputy speaker to match those of high court judges.
The bill further seeks to increase the salaries of parliament members from Rs150,000 to Rs300,000. It also calls for the travel allowance of parliamentarians to be increased to cover the cost of business class air tickets and AC class train tickets.
The draft bill also seeks 25 business class tickets to be allocated for each lawmaker and for the option of these tickets being used by the members’ spouses and children to travel within the country to be available.
Recognising the fact that the salaries of some lawmakers in Pakistan were among the lowest in the region, Rehman stated: “We understand that there are certain members of the Senate who do not have another source of income and find it difficult to make ends meet. However, this matter should be picked up at another time.
“Keeping aside whether this bill is a money bill or not, the role of parliament is to fight for the people. The PPP has always strived in the interests of the most downtrodden segment of society.”
In the country’s current economic situation, it would be tone deaf for the country’s lawmakers to take a pay raise, she added.
However, Barrister Mohammad Ali Saif of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan maintained that those lawmakers who do not wish to take the extra money, don’t have to so.
“They are free to donate the money either back to the government or to a suitable charity as they see fit,” he added.
The Senate will hold a debate on whether the proposed law classifies as a money bill, in which case, it would be sent to the National Assembly.
‘Need to increase salaries’
On Sunday, Senator Sajjad Hussain Turi — PTI’s chief whip in the Senate — said that the bill would be scrapped if a consensus could not be reached.
Turi, who was elected as an independent candidate and was appointed the ruling party’s chief whip in the Senate last year, had said that those opposing the move were simply playing the “numbers game”.
“There is a need to increase the salaries,” Turi had said, while claiming that almost 85 per cent of the 104 members had agreed in principle to support the bill.
He had added that they would consult various political parties regarding the bill and if a consensus could not be reached, the proposed bill would be scrapped.
National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, however, had termed the proposal “unreasonable”, adding that the country had “not come out of the economic crisis yet”.
The NA speaker had added that a raise in lawmakers’ salaries at this point would put an unnecessary burden on the treasury. “Any suggestion to increase lawmakers’ should only be made once the treasury is able to withstand the additional burden.”